Crime & Justice

Judge closes Neruda poisoning probe

Santiago, Sep 25 (EFE).- Judge Paola Plaza on Monday closed the investigation into the death of the Chilean poet and Nobel Prize laureate Pablo Neruda, and is preparing to rule on whether the writer died from prostate cancer or if he was poisoned by a secret agent of the of Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.

Neruda died at the Santa María Clinic in Santiago 12 days after the coup d’état that overthrew the democratically elected socialist government of his friend Salvador Allende (1970-1973) and just one day before going into exile in Mexico, where he could have become the great opponent of the dictator.

The ruling could arrive within the next 15 days, unless the parties request some other procedure, the Judiciary said.

The poisoning thesis was raised publicly for the first time by the poet’s driver and secretary, Manuel Araya, who died in June at the age of 77. His testimony was the basis of the complaint filed by the Communist Party – supported by part of the writer’s family – and which in 2011 gave rise to the ongoing investigation.

The investigation has included the participation of three international panels. The second of them contradicted the official version until then that attributed Neruda’s death to his illness, and revealed the presence of clostridium botulinum, a toxic bacterium, in a molar of the poet. Some was also later found in his bones.

The third group of experts, which delivered its final report to Judge Plaza in February, had to determine whether the toxin, which is usually found in soil and can cause nervous system problems and respiratory and muscular paralysis, was in Neruda’s body at the time of death or if it entered his body afterwards.

The report will be added to the rest of the statements, police reports, documents and proceedings that, together, will lead to Plaza’s ruling.

Days before the delivery of the forensic conclusions, the poet’s nephew, Rodolfo Reyes, who had access to the report as a plaintiff in the case, stated that the experts concluded that clostridium botulinum found in the remains of the writer “was in his body at the time of death.”

For the family, this is irrefutable proof that Neruda was poisoned.

If this hypothesis is confirmed, the question would remain: how or who introduced the toxin into the Nobel Prize winner’s body? EFE


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