SPECIAL: Cause of death of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda faces trial again

By Cristóbal Chavez Bravo

SANTIAGO, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) — A report submitted to the Chilean judiciary this week could change the cause of death of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who officially died of prostate cancer but could have died of poisoning, according to new evidence.

The study, conducted by an international committee of experts, contains the results of the analysis of a bacterium found in laboratories in Canada and Denmark after an exhumation of his body in the remains of the poet, and not necessarily related to the prostate cancer that suffered.

Gloria Ramírez, coordinator of the panel, which is made up of experts from Canada, Denmark and Chile, delivered the report to local judge Paola Plaza on Wednesday, who told the press it was “important” but not conclusive evidence.

“The investigation is in the summary phase and there is not much I can predict. Now comes a period of study and verification, not just of these reports,” he added.

Review of the case began in May 2011 with a newspaper article in which the author’s assistant and driver, Manuel Araya, reiterated a statement he had given to the local press in 2004 alleging that Neruda was from agents of General Augusto Pinochet been murdered (1973-1990).

Neruda’s death occurred on September 23, 1973, 12 days after the Pinochet-led coup that overthrew former Socialist President and poet’s personal friend Salvador Allende (1970-1973).

As the author of the above-mentioned newspaper article, Francisco Marín, detailed Thursday in a press conference with international correspondents, Neruda was in good health before his death, contrary to what was reported after his death.

At the same press conference, Araya stated that Neruda “was healthy, weighed more than 90 kilos, he even wrote his memoir ‘I Confess that I Have Lived’ with his secretary Homero Arce”.

Neruda wanted to go into exile in Mexico with the permission of that country’s government, and according to Araya “he was in his right mind, happy because he was going to Mexico to ask the world for help.”

In 2011, following the publication of Marín’s article, the Chilean Communist Party filed a court case to determine the real causes of death.

In 2013, Neruda’s remains were exhumed. Since then, three international panels of experts have conducted studies to determine whether the author of “I Confess I Have Lived” died of extreme weakness from cancer, the official cause, or was assassinated.

The first panel, composed of forensic scientists from Chile, Spain and the United States, found that there was no evidence to determine a cause other than cancer.

For its part, the second committee, made up of experts from Denmark and Canada in 2017, reported that it had found traces of the bacterium “Clostridium botulinum” in one of Neruda’s teeth, which causes botulism and can lead to nervous system problems up to and including death not related to cancer deaths.

However, that panel said more time and investigations were needed to determine the cause of death based on the results obtained.

In the report presented by the third panel this week, they concluded that the bacteria was in his body when he died, although the cause of death is being determined by the Chilean judiciary, with no date announced at the moment becomes.