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Results of latest probe into Neruda’s death to be revealed in Chilean capital

Santiago, Jan 24 (EFE).- An international panel of forensic experts will spend the next week and a half in the Chilean capital presenting the results of their probe into the death of famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), recipient of the 1971 Nobel Prize in literature.

Neruda, who was a longtime member of his country’s Communist Party and close adviser to Chilean socialist President Salvador Allende, died 12 days after the Sept. 11, 1973, coup that overthrew Allende and brought an right-wing military dictatorship to power.

The experts from laboratories in Canada and Denmark will present their findings through Feb. 3 at the Palacio de los Tribunales de Justicia de Santiago, the building housing the Supreme Court of Chile, to Paola Plaza, a Chilean judge who oversees human rights cases; and Chilean Supreme Court justice Mario Carroza.

“This is a panel of experts at the highest level internationally, virtually unheard of due to the level of expertise of the people involved, and is a demonstration of science at the service of criminal investigations,” Plaza said.

Plaintiff attorney Rodolfo Reyes, a nephew of the late poet, told Efe this expert gathering is important in terms of “learning the truth about the death of Pablo Neruda, which Chile and the whole world are seeking.”

This latest panel of forensic experts is the third to be convened for this purpose.

An earlier international group assembled in 2017 determined that Neruda did not die of prostate cancer, as his death certificate states and had been communicated to public opinion.

“On that occasion, a large amount of (a deadly bacteria called) Clostridium Botulinum” was found in an intact molar, Reyes said.

Questions surrounding the cause of Neruda’s death date back to 2011, when his former driver, Manuel Araya, said in an interview that Neruda told him just hours before his death at the Santa Maria Clinic – a private health center in Santiago where he was undergoing treatment – that an unknown substance had been injected into his stomach.

Suspicion surrounds the events of Sept. 23, 1973, at that clinic, according to the family, who say the doctor treating Neruda handed over his shift to another physician – “Doctor Price” – who mysteriously left the medical center shortly afterward and never returned.

“Upon Neruda’s death, (Price) was never identified, mentioned or announced as a doctor at that clinic. No physician existed then in Chile with that last name, neither Chilean nor foreign,” the family said in a statement.

In 2013, Carroza ordered the exhumation of the poet’s remains and toxicology examinations were carried out for the first time. Those tests, however, provided no evidence that Neruda died of non-natural causes.

But after Neruda’s family members insisted that new investigations be conducted, substances were found that raised suspicion about the possible intervention of third parties.

Although the latest investigation was supposed to have lasted just one year, Reyes said the pandemic and “difficulties and impediments” involving both public and private entities delayed the delivery of results, which are finally to be unveiled next week. EFE


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