Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda was not poisoned, forensic experts say


Chilean writer, poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda, then ambassador in France, speaks to reporters on October 21, 1971 next to wife Matilde in Paris after being awarded the 1971 Nobel Prize for Literature.



Forensic experts confirmed on Friday that Pablo Neruda — the Nobel Prize winning poet who died days after Chile’s bloody 1973 coup — was not poisoned.

The six-month investigation by Chilean and foreign experts isn’t resting well with Neruda’s family and supporters, however.

Neruda’s body was exhumed in April based on suspicions of those closest to the self-avowed communist, who suggested he was assassinated by right-wing ruler Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

“No forensic evidence has been found that would allow a legal medical ruling of death by unnatural causes in the case of Sr. Pablo Neruda,” Chile’s chief medical examiner, Patricio Bustos, told reporters.

Bustos said toxicological analyses of the poet’s bones found nothing more than cancer drugs. The autopsy “showed the presence of pharmaceutical products for the treatment of cancerous illnesses, specifically prostate cancer, which were in use at the time,” the medical examiner said.

Neruda was 69 when he died, less than two weeks after Pinochet overran then president Salvador Allende.

His long-timer driver, Manuel Araya, sparked the renewed interest when he said Neruda complained of an unknown doctor administering an unknown injection.

Araya said Neruda’s condition worsened quickly, ultimately leading to his death, and suggested it was Pinochet who ordered the killing. Neruda died on Sept. 23, 1973.

Chile’s modern Communist Party isn’t satisfied, and neither is his nephew.

Chilean Communist Party lawyer Eduardo Contreras told BBC the case isn’t closed.

“Today we are going to request more samples,” he said. “They referred to chemical agents, but there are no studies about biological agents. A very important chapter has closed and was done very seriously, but this is not over.”

Neruda’s nephew, Rudolfo Reyes, told Deutsche Welle that the family is only partially relieved.

“There’s still a way to go,” he said.

Neruda was a vocal Pinochet opponent, but a friend and supporter of Allende. He was preparing for a life in exile in Mexico when he died, the Los Angeles Times said.

The Nobel Foundation awarded him the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature “for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams.”

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