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Chilean and International Forensics Experts: ‘No Foul Play’ Found in Death of Pablo Neruda

By Harriet Staff


According to a new report by Chilean and international forensics experts, no foul play—such as poisoning or the use of other chemical agents—has been found to be the cause of death for the much beloved Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The Nobel Prize-winning poet’s death in 1973 of prostate cancer has been the subject of inquiry following allegations of foul-play by his driver, Manuel Araya, in 2011. (To learn more about this story, check out these Harriet posts following the story as it unfolded: here, here, and here.

Chilean and international forensics experts have ruled out poisoning or other foul play in the death of the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda in 1973, according to a report released Friday.

The report concluded that there were no “relevant chemical agents” present that could be related to Mr. Neruda’s death and “no forensic evidence whatsoever” pointing to a cause of death other than prostate cancer.

In April, Judge Mario Carroza ordered Mr. Neruda’s remains to be exhumed as part of a court investigation into his death. The inquiry was opened in 2011 after his former driver, Manuel Araya, claimed that the poet had been given a suspicious injection while at a private clinic in Santiago. Best-known for his love poems, Mr. Neruda was a former senator and prominent member of the Communist Party, and a friend of the socialist leader, President Salvador Allende.

Mr. Neruda died at 69 in September 1973, just two weeks after a military coup toppled Mr. Allende. Mr. Neruda, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971 while serving as ambassador to France, had undergone cancer treatment in Paris and returned to Chile in late 1972.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 coup, the military looted Mr. Neruda’s house in Santiago and raided his home in Isla Negra, a coastal town 70 miles west of the capital, where he was living with his wife, Matilde Urrutia. Because of his party membership and sympathies with the Allende government, the Mexican government offered to fly the couple out of the country. Days before, however, Mr. Neruda was admitted to the Santa María clinic in Santiago.

Mr. Araya claims that Mr. Neruda was not in the clinic because of faltering health, but seeking shelter before flying to Mexico. He asserts that Mr. Neruda was not in critical condition at the time and that shortly before his death, the poet had told him that a doctor at the clinic had injected him with an unknown substance that worsened his condition. There are no witnesses to support Mr. Araya’s account, and it is not clear why he waited almost 40 years to come forward.

The forensic report confirmed metastatic lesions in the skeleton corresponding to prostate cancer and traces of medication used at the time to treat it.

The analysis of Mr. Neruda’s remains was carried out by experts from Chile’s forensics service, the University of Chile, the Catholic University of Chile, the University of Murcia in Spain and the chief medical examiner’s office of North Carolina.

Read on at NY Times.

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, November 11th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.