New Trend in Latin America: Exhuming the Dead
Often, investigators want to see if political leaders were murdered
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 17, 2013 1:48 PM CDT
In this Dec. 1941 file photo, Pablo Neruda lies in a bed in Mexico City, recovering from injuries police said were inflicted by a group of German nationals in Cuernavaca the day before.   (AP Photo, File)

(Newser) – Lately, Latin America is really into ... exhuming political and intellectual leaders. As the New York Times explains it, the region has always been more inclined toward exhumation than the rest of the world, a custom that could date back to the early days of Christianity, when saints' body parts were often traded. But these days, exhumations are definitely on the uptick; in many cases, authorities are hoping to figure out or confirm how a person died. The Times points out a slew of examples.

There's Pablo Neruda, said to have died of prostate cancer; authorities want to know if he was actually poisoned. In Brazil, there are two presidents believed to have been assassinated; authorities want to know if one was poisoned and the other killed when a sniper shot his driver. And who can forget when Hugo Chavez disinterred Simon Bolivar (though he failed to prove Bolivar died from arsenic poisoning)? In Chile in 2004, investigators actually did find that a president died from poisoning, not surgery complications. Sometimes, even people who believe the official death story support exhumations: As one explains, "His remains must be examined, if only to deal with the conspiracy theories and allow him to rest peacefully."