Legendary Chilean Poet Pablo Neruda Was Poisoned, Forensic Experts Say

Foren­sic experts have deter­mined that Chilean poet Pablo Neru­da was poi­soned near­ly 50 years ago, the rel­a­tives of the Nobel lau­re­ate said Monday.

What Neru­da’s nephew Rodol­fo Reyes has revealed is the lat­est devel­op­ment in one of the big debates in post-coup Chile. While Neru­da’s cause of death is offi­cial­ly believed to be com­pli­ca­tions from prostate can­cer, the poet­’s dri­ver insist­ed he was poi­soned for decades.

There was no con­fir­ma­tion of Reyes’ remarks from foren­sic experts from Cana­da, Den­mark and Chile, who are due to release a report on Neru­da’s cause of death Wednesday.

The first was because one of the experts had an inter­net con­nec­tion prob­lem, and the sec­ond because the judge ruled that no agree­ment had yet been reached.

A few years ago, inter­na­tion­al foren­sic experts deter­mined that the offi­cial cause of death was cachex­ia, a weak­en­ing of the body from a chron­ic dis­ease, in this case can­cer. How­ev­er, he said at the time that the cause of Neru­da’s death was unknown.

In an inter­view with The Asso­ci­at­ed Press, Reyes said foren­sic tests con­duct­ed at lab­o­ra­to­ries in Den­mark and Cana­da showed “a large amount of Chlo­ristrid­i­um bot­u­linum that is incom­pat­i­ble with human life.” This pow­er­ful tox­in caus­es paral­y­sis of the ner­vous sys­tem and can be fatal.

Reyes first revealed the infor­ma­tion to Span­ish news agency EFE ear­ly Mon­day morning.

As an attor­ney in the tri­al sur­round­ing his uncle’s death, Reyes said he had access to a foren­sic report con­duct­ed in 2017 after the same group of experts said there was evi­dence of tox­ins in the late poet­’s bones and molars. ing.

Lab­o­ra­to­ry tests con­clud­ed that the poi­son was admin­is­tered while the poet was alive, Reyes said.

The report is due to come out near­ly 50 years after the poet and Com­mu­nist Par­ty mem­ber’s death and 12 years after a judi­cial inquiry began into whether he was poi­soned, as alleged by his dri­ver, Manuel Araya.

Ear­li­er this month, Araya told the Asso­ci­at­ed Press that he believed the foren­sic results sup­port­ed the claim that the poet died “from an injec­tion in the stom­ach” in the clin­ic where he was hos­pi­tal­ized. Shin­tani said that it was the first time she had heard such a sto­ry from her nurse.

On Sep­tem­ber 11, 1973, after a coup d’é­tat in Chile over­threw Pres­i­dent Allende and Gen­er­al Pinochet took pow­er, Neru­da died in chaos at the age of 69, suf­fer­ing from prostate cancer.

Neru­da’s body was exhumed in 2013 to deter­mine the cause of death, but tests found no poi­sons or drugs in the bones. His fam­i­ly and dri­ver demand­ed fur­ther investigation.

In 2015, the Chilean gov­ern­ment announced that it was “high­ly like­ly that a third par­ty was involved” in Neru­da’s death. Neru­da was reburied last year in a favorite home over­look­ing the Pacif­ic coast.

In 2017, an inter­na­tion­al team of sci­en­tists deter­mined that Neru­da did not die of can­cer or mal­nu­tri­tion, deny­ing his offi­cial cause of death, but not say­ing what caused him to die.

One of the experts, Aure­lio Luna, said at the time, “The basic con­clu­sion is that the death cer­tifi­cate show­ing the cause of death as cachex­ia is invalid.” “We can­not yet rule out or con­firm whether Pablo Neru­da died of nat­ur­al caus­es or of violence.”

Neru­da, who is known for his love poems, was a friend of Allende, but com­mit­ted sui­cide instead of sur­ren­der­ing to the army in a coup led by Pinochet.

Neru­da was trau­ma­tized by the mil­i­tary coup and the per­se­cu­tion and mur­der of his friends. He intend­ed to go into exile as a lead­ing voice against the dictatorship.

How­ev­er, the day before his depar­ture, he was tak­en by ambu­lance to a clin­ic in San­ti­a­go, Chile, where he was being treat­ed for can­cer. Neru­da died of nat­ur­al caus­es there on Sep­tem­ber 23, 1973.

But sus­pi­cions of the dic­ta­tor­ship’s involve­ment in his death per­sist­ed long after Chile’s democ­ra­cy in 1990.

For­mer Mex­i­can ambas­sador to Chile at the time of the bloody mil­i­tary coup, Gon­za­lo Mar­tinez Cor­bara, twice told The Asso­ci­at­ed Press that he had seen Neru­da the day before his death and weighed near­ly 100 kilo­grams (220 pounds). ing. Mar­tinez spoke to the AP over the phone in 2017, just days before his death.

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