A Chilean judge has ordered the remains of famed poet and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda exhumed as part of an investigation into his death, the foundation that manages his literary legacy has said.

The leftist poet, who died 12 days after the 1973 military coup that ousted socialist President Salvador Allende and brought Augusto Pinochet to power, was long believed to have died of cancer.

But officials last year started looking into the possibility he was murdered by agents of the Pinochet regime, as claimed by Neruda's driver.

No date for the exhumation has been set.

Neruda is buried next to his wife Matilde Urrutia in Isla Negra, 120 kilometers west of the capital Santiago.


The Pablo Neruda Foundation said it learned a few days ago from judge Mario Carroza of his decision to have the remains of the poet exhumed.

The investigation began last year after a complaint was filed by the Chilean communist party, to which Neruda belonged.

The complaint came after Neruda's driver, Manuel Araya, declared publicly that Pinochet agents poisoned Neruda while he was hospitalised with cancer.

The Pablo Neruda Foundation has denied he was murdered, and says it still believes he died of cancer.

In Friday's statement it expressed hope that the exhumation would be conducted "with the greatest possible respect and care" and that it would clear up "any doubts that might exist" as to how Neruda died.

Source: Agencies