(...) Neruda was planning to go to Mexico to raise opposition to the military regime from abroad, and that the Mexican government had sent a plane to fetch him and other high-profile soon-to-be-exiles. The problem was that the military junta would not readily give Neruda a safe conduct pass to leave the country. He was the most well known Chilean after the slain president, and was sure to make trouble if he left the country.
That's why - according to Araya - a plan was devised to take Neruda to the hospital, so it could be argued that his health warranted a humanitarian safe conduct pass. The plan worked and the pass was issued. But Neruda was never to leave the clinic alive.
Almost 40 years have passed since his death. Yet when Manuel Araya tells the story, it is as though he were reliving it. He says he and Mrs Neruda had returned to Isla Negra to fetch the poet's suitcase, when he received a phone call from Neruda. "He sounded very upset and told me that something had happened, that a doctor had come into his room while he was napping and injected him in the stomach with something that immediately made him feel ill. He suddenly felt hot, red and feverish, and asked us to rush back to the clinic."
When Araya went, the secret police were waiting to arrest him. He was taken to Santiago's National Stadium, where thousands of suspected supporters of the overthrown government were being held and tortured. While there, he heard the news that Neruda had died, just a few hours after the injection.
Araya said he was always convinced that Neruda had been murdered, but did not dare to say anything until 1990, when Chile returned to democracy. At that time no-one seemed to believe him. Mrs Neruda had died by then, and while her memoirs indicate that "Pablo was not ready to die yet", there is nothing conclusive.
Pablo Neruda is one of the great Spanish language writers of the 20th century and surely the most notable Chilean poet ever.