Poison ruled out as cause of legendary Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's death
SANTIAGO - Agence France-Presse
Undated picture of Chile's President Salvador Allende (L) and his compatriot poet Pablo Neruda in Santiago, during the Government of the Unidad Popular (1971-73). AFP photo / Punto FinalForensic experts who examined the remains of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda found no evidence he was poisoned to death during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, an official said Nov. 8.
"No relevant chemical agents that could be linked to Mr. Neruda's death were found," said Patricio Bustos, director of Chile's forensic medicine service.
The study confirmed that prostate cancer caused Neruda's death in 1973, shortly after the military coup that brought Pinochet to power.
The Nobel laureate's remains were exhumed in April and examined by a group of Chilean and foreign forensic experts after suspicions arose he may have been poisoned.
A former driver had claimed that Neruda was given a mysterious injection in his chest hours before his death in the Santiago clinic where he was being treated for advanced prostate cancer.
"Various complementary techniques confirmed the existence of metastatic lesions disseminated in various segments of the skeleton that correspond exactly with the disease for which Mr. Pablo Neruda was being treated," Bustos said.
The analysis, which was conducted at universities in Spain and the United States, found "no forensic evidence at all that would permit us to establish a medicolegal etiology of non-natural causes in the death of Mr. Pablo Neruda," he said.
However, the judge in charge of the investigation said he is not yet ready to close the case.
"It is necessary to have all the background, and at this moment we don't know if we have it or not," Mario Carroza said.
Neruda's family said they would ask that more work be done to clear it up completely.
Similarities with Arafat case
Lawyer Rodolfo Reyes, a nephew of Neruda, drew parallels to the case of Yasser Arafat, whose remains were also exhumed recently to test for poisoning. A team of Swiss experts said this week they had found evidence of excess quantities of polonium on the Palestinian leader's remains, though they could not conclusively determine whether the deadly radioactive substance was the cause of death.
Neruda's close friend, president Salvador Allende, also has been exhumed to determine how he died during the 1973 coup. The finding was that he committed suicide. The death of former president Eduardo Frei Montalva, in 1982 after complications from surgery, has been under investigation since 2009 after researchers reportedly found mustard gas in his remains.
An active member of the Communist Party, Neruda died September 23, 1973, and was buried by the sea in Isla Negra, on Chile's Pacific coast.
Famed for his love poems, Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Neruda had been planning to go into exile in Mexico to lead opposition to the regime.