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Was Pablo Neruda poisoned? International panel to start fresh probe

Supporters of the theory that Pablo Neruda was murdered have pointed to the presence in his remains of a highly aggressive, penicillin-resistant bacterium.

books Updated: Oct 17, 2017 13:04 IST
Pablo Neruda, who was suffering from prostate cancer, died on September 23, 1973, 12 days after dictator Augusto Pinochet toppled Chile’s Socialist government in a bloody coup.
Pablo Neruda, who was suffering from prostate cancer, died on September 23, 1973, 12 days after dictator Augusto Pinochet toppled Chile’s Socialist government in a bloody coup.(Wikimedia Commons)

A global team of experts has gathered in Santiago, Chile, to determine whether the 1973 death of Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda was due to cancer or because of poisoning.

The panel, which includes recognised authorities from Chile, Spain, the US, Denmark, Canada and France, will deliver a report to Judge Mario Carroza, who is overseeing the investigation.

“What each of the experts brings is our little piece of the puzzle to try to construct together in the most reliable way possible what could have happened with the death of Pablo Neruda,” Spanish forensic pathologist Aurelio Luna told Efe news on Monday.

Investigations of other deaths have established that “crimes” took place at the Santa Maria Clinic – where Neruda died – during Pinochet’s dictatorship. Pablo Neruda in Italy in 1963. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Nobel laureate, who was suffering from prostate cancer, died on September 23, 1973, 12 days after dictator Augusto Pinochet toppled Chile’s Socialist government in a bloody coup.

His death was officially blamed on the cancer, but an investigation was opened in 2011 after a complaint was filed by Neruda’s Communist Party colleagues based on charges by former chauffeur Manuel Araya that the poet was murdered on Pinochet’s orders.

The poet’s body was exhumed on April 8, 2013, and a previous group of Chilean and international experts concluded seven months later that Neruda was not poisoned.

Investigations of other deaths have established that “crimes” took place at the Santa Maria Clinic – where Neruda died – during Pinochet’s dictatorship, Eduardo Contreras, legal counsel for the Chilean Communist Party, said on Monday.

The 1982 death of former President Eduardo Frei Montalva, who governed from 1964-1970, at the Santa Marta Clinic after undergoing a routine procedure has been attributed to poisoning.

“Pablo Neruda died in the same clinic, on the same floor, with the same doctors and several of the same nurses,” Contreras said.

The Nobel Prize winner, a member of the Communist Party Central Committee, died as he was preparing to travel to Mexico on a mission to organise opposition to Pinochet, the attorney said.

Supporters of the theory that Neruda was murdered have pointed to the presence in his remains of a highly aggressive, penicillin-resistant bacterium.