An international panel of forensic experts including those from Spain, have said that the Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda was poisoned, according to one of his family members, who blamed the authorities of the time.
Rodolfo Reyes, one of Neruda’s nephews, said on Monday that when his uncle died nearly 50 years ago, it was as a result of poisoning.
Pablo Neruda was Chilean consul to Madrid at the start of the Spanish Civil War. The experiences of the war marked him deeply, as he notes in his memoirs: “Almost everything I have done in my poetry and in my life takes its gravity from my time in Spain.”
His poem España en el corazón ( Spain in My Heart) penned in 1937 was meant as an expression of his support and solidarity with the Republican cause and he was loathed by Franco´s regime.
The official position has long been that Neruda died of complications from prostate cancer, but the famous poet’s driver has claimed for years that he was in fact poisoned with the complicit knowledge of Spain´s then Franco government as well as the United States.
Experts from Spain, Denmark, Canada and Chile, who are set to release a twice-delayed report on Wednesday (15th February) on the cause of the poet’s death, have not yet publicly commented.
Reyes reportedly said that forensic tests carried out in Canadian and Danish laboratories showed the presence of “a great quantity of Cloristridium botulinum, which is incompatible with human life.”
The toxin is deadly and can also cause paralysis.
Reyes said that he had access to the forensic report because he is a lawyer in the judicial case looking into his uncle’s death, according to local media.
The report is set to be made public nearly 50 years after the poet and Communist Party member’s death and over a decade after a judicial investigation began looking into whether he was poisoned, as his driver Manuel Araya has claimed.
Neruda, 69 at the time of his death, was suffering from prostate cancer and passed away in the chaos surrounding the coup in Chile on 11th September 1973 that saw the democratically elected President Salvador Allende overthrowing, with dictator General Augusto Pinochet taking over.
Neruda’s body had been exhumed in 2013 to determine his cause of death but initial tests showed no signs of poisoning. But his family and driver then requested further investigations.
The Chilean government said in 2015 that it was “highly probable that a third party” was responsible for the famous poet’s death.
Aurelio Luna, one of the panel’s experts, had said at the time: “We still can’t exclude nor affirm the natural or violent cause of Pablo Neruda’s death.”
Familiares de Pablo Neruda afirman que fue envenenado por “agentes del Estado” de Chile
Reyes reportedly said in 2017 that a “large quantity of ‘clostridium botulinum'” was found in Neruda’s skeleton, a pathogenic bacterium capable of causing botulism, a disease caused by a toxin that attacks the nerves of the body.
He said: “That should never have been in the skeleton, in Neruda’s body, and that was injected. So, as a lawyer, it makes me say that Neruda was eliminated in Chile.
“By who? We don’t know yet. That’s what we are going to find out, and of course it had to be agents of the State.”
Neruda was friends with Allende, who took his own life rather than surrender to Pinochet’s troops.