Digging into murder investigations in Chile


Chilean Army troops fire on the La Moneda Palace on Sept. 11, 1973.



Here is what Chile is up to this week: Digging into murder investigations from 40 years ago.

First, a TV report suggested that former President Salvador Allende may not have killed himself, as the official story goes. Now the government is investigating whether the regime of Augusto Pinochet murdered Nobel prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.

Allende was killed during the Sept. 11, 1973, military coup that brought Pinochet to power. Elected in 1970, he was Chile's first democratically elected Marxist president. He nationalized industries and farms as part his pursuit of a "Chilean path to socialism."

With the support of the United States, Pinochet led a four-man junta that toppled Allende's government. He then ruled for 17 years, during which more than 3,200 people were executed or disappeared.

After Allende gave his last speech on Sept. 11, 1973, planes bombed the presidential palace in Santiago. Autopsy and eyewitness accounts from the time determined that Allende shot himself in the head with an AK-47.

But a newly disclosed military file contains evidence that Allende may have been shot in the face with a small firearm before he shot himself. Allende's body was exhumed last week to determine whether he commited suicide. The investigation could take up to three months.

In addition, the government is investigating whether Pinochet's agents injected poison into the stomach of famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda died 12 days after the military coup.

He had just written an article criticizing Pinochet and defending his recently decased friend Allende.

Neruda was being treated in Santiago's Santa Maria clinic for prostate cancer when he suffered heart failure. Six people, including several government agents, allegedly poisoned former President Eduardo Frei in the same clinic in 1981.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez called Neruda the "the greatest poet of the 20th century." Born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, Neruda changed his name when he was 16. He won the 1971 Nobel prize for literature "for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent's destiny and dreams". His work "20 Poems Of Love And A Song Of Despair" sold millions of copies.

Neruda and Allende are among 726 possible murder cases from the Pinochet dictatorship now being investigated.