No evidence Chilean poet Neruda poisoned during dictatorship -tests

Fri Nov 8, 2013 11:17am EST
 
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By Felipe Iturrieta and Alexandra Ulmer

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - An exhumation and testing of Chilean Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda's body found no evidence he was poisoned, a forensic team said on Friday, despite accusations the poet was murdered 40 years ago by a military dictatorship.

Neruda, famed for his passionate love poems and staunch communist views, is presumed to have died from prostate cancer just days after the September 11, 1973, coup that ushered in the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Some 3,000 people are thought to have been killed during the 17-year-long military rule.

The poet's former chauffeur says Pinochet's agents took advantage of Neruda's illness to inject poison into his stomach while he was bedridden at the Santa Maria clinic in Santiago.

"We found no forensic evidence that gives reason to think that ... Pablo Neruda died of unnatural causes," said Patricio Bustos, head of the Justice Ministry's forensic unit, SML, during a press conference to present the results.

Neruda's body was exhumed from his windswept coastal home of Isla Negra, where he was buried beside his third wife, in April, and his remains were analyzed by international and local experts. The team said it had done everything possible to determine whether he had been poisoned.

Neruda's nephew Rodolfo Reyes urged further investigation, citing this week's report by a Swiss laboratory on the remains of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Arafat's remains showed test results consistent with polonium poisoning, according to the Swiss experts.

"We have to keep investigating," Reyes said. "This is just starting."   Continued...

 
Rodolfo Reyes, nephew of Chilean poet and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda, talks to the media after a news conference in Santiago November 8, 2013. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado