Crime & Justice

Expert report reveals Chilean poet Neruda was “poisoned,” says family

Santiago, Feb 13 (EFE).- International experts will reveal on Wednesday that the bacteria found in the remains of Chilean Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda “was in his body at the time of death,” a finding proving that he was “poisoned” 12 days after the country’s 1973 military coup d’etat, his family told EFE in an exclusive interview.

“We now know that the ‘clostridium botulinum’ (bacteria) would have no reason to have been in Neruda’s bones. What does this mean? That Neruda was murdered, there was an action in 1973 by agents of the State,” Rodolfo Reyes, the poet’s nephew, said.

The bacteria, which is responsible for causing botulism, was found in 2017 in one of Neruda’s molars by another panel of experts, who rejected the dictatorship’s version that the cause of death was advanced prostate cancer, from which he had suffered since 1969.

Clostridium botulinum is a bacillus that is generally found in the soil but experts from Canada’s McMaster University and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark concluded in the report that will be made public this week that “it did not leak into the corpse of Neruda from inside or around his coffin” but that he already had it in his body before he died.

The unknown aspect of the case continues to be how the toxin was introduced into Neruda’s body and who did so.

“Neruda’s fatal bullet has been found, which he had in his body. Who fired it? That will be found out soon, but there’s no doubt that they killed Neruda. Direct intervention by third parties,” Reyes emphasized.

A large portion of Neruda’s family supports the version of Manuel Araya, the poet’s former chauffeur who said that his boss was poisoned with an injection into his abdomen by a secret agent of the military regime who posed as a doctor at the Santa Maria Clinic in Santiago.

“Neruda was not seriously ill, he just had cancer. He was walking with difficulty, he had pains, but he was not on the verge of dying,” Elizabeth Flores, the family attorney – who acted as the plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in 2011 along with the Communist Party, of which Neruda was a member – told EFE.

Reyes recalled that his uncle – whose remains were exhumed in 2013 from his property on Isla Negra, off Chile’s central coastline – had planned to travel to Mexico a few days before dying at age 69, and said that if he had gone into exile he would have become the “great opponent” of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who headed the military regime.

The conclusions of this new expert report were to have been made known on Feb. 3, but the announcement was cancelled twice – first for technical problems and later for alleged disagreements among the experts – and rescheduled for Feb. 15.

“We attorneys are going to ask for another kind of proceedings that may or may not be scientific,” Flores added.

EFE mmm/jm/bp

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