Neruda, who died suddenly 12 days after the 11 September 1973 military coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power, had suspected prostate cancer and for decades it was assumed that he had succumbed to the disease.
But two years ago when Neruda's bodyguard and driver, Manuel Araya, began describing his recollections of the poet's last days, a new narrative was born: the Pinochet regime eliminated Neruda to avoid the possibility that he would become a renowned voice of dissidence.
Neruda was known for his erotic, passionate, romantic poetry, particularly Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. He was also a leftwing politician, diplomat and close friend of President Salvador Allende, who killed himself rather than surrender to Pinochet in the 1973 coup.
Araya said that while Neruda was making final preparations for exile in Mexico, doctors injected the poet with a substance, after which his health rapidly deteriorated.
The investigating judge, Mario Carroza, originally doubted the conspiracy theory but his inquiry over the past two years has uncovered sufficient evidence to order the exhumation.