The Day

Nephew: Chilean poet Neruda was poisoned


— Forensic Santiago, Chile experts have determined that Chilean poet Pablo Neruda died of poisoning nearly 50 years ago, a family member of the Nobel Prize winner said Monday.

The revelation by Rodolfo Reyes, a Neruda nephew, is the latest turn in one of the great debates of post-coup Chile. The long-stated official position has been that Neruda died of complicati­ons from prostate cancer, but the poet’s driver argued for decades that he was poisoned.

There was no confirmati­on of Reyes’ comments from forensic experts from Canada, Denmark and Chile who are scheduled to publicly release a report Wednesday on the cause of Neruda’s death.

The public release of the group’s finding has been delayed twice this year, first due to internet connectivi­ty issues of one of the experts and then again because a judge said the panel had yet to reach a consensus.

Internatio­nal forensics experts several years ago rejected the official cause of death as cachexia, or weakness and wasting of the body due to chronic illness — in this case cancer. But at that time they said they had not determined what did kill Neruda.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Reyes said forensic tests carried out in Danish and Canadian labs indicated a presence of “a great quantity of Cloristrid­ium botulinum, which is incompatib­le with human life.” The powerful toxin can cause paralysis in the nervous system and death.

Reyes first revealed the informatio­n to the Spanish news agency EFE earlier Monday.

As a lawyer in the judicial case over his uncle’s death, Reyes said he has access to the forensic report, which was carried out after the same group of experts said in 2017 that there were indication­s of a toxin in the late poet’s bones and a molar.

The lab tests concluded that the toxin was administer­ed when the poet was alive, Reyes said.

The report is set to be released almost 50 years after the death of the poet and Communist Party member and 12 years after the start of a judicial investigat­ion into whether he was poisoned, as his driver Manuel Araya maintains.

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