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Pablo Neruda didn’t die of cancer: Experts

But the team has not determined exactly what killed the Chilean poet and diplomat

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Pablo Neruda
Gulf News

Santiago: A global team of experts have said that Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda’s death was not due to cancer.

Neruda was suffering from prostate cancer at the time and cachexia — cancer wasting syndrome — was listed as the official cause of his death on September 23, 1973, reports Efe news.

“Cachexia is ruled out. That is clear,” Judge Mario Carroza, who is overseeing the investigation of Neruda’s death, said on Friday after meeting with the team here.

The team, which includes recognised authorities from Chile, Spain, the US, Denmark, Canada and France, has not determined exactly what killed Neruda.

The provisional findings point to a previously undetected toxin, “which in turn requires other studies that will allow us to have a definitive conclusion”, Carroza said.

It is “explicitly certain” that the information on the death certificate “does not reflect reality”, one member of the team, Spanish forensic pathologist Aurelio Luna, told reporters.

Further tests to determine how Neruda died will take about a year, Luna said.

Neruda, an active member of the Communist Party, died 12 days after dictator General Augusto Pinochet toppled Chile’s elected Socialist government in a bloody coup.

The current investigation goes back to 2011, which the Chilean Communist Party filed a criminal complaint based on charges by former chauffeur Manuel Araya that Neruda was murdered on Pinochet’s orders.

The poet’s body was exhumed on April 8, 2013, and a previous group of Chilean and international experts concluded seven months later that Neruda had not been poisoned.

Carroza, however, was not fully satisfied and he ordered additional tests.

Investigations of other deaths have established that “crimes” took place at the Santa Maria Clinic — where Neruda died — during the Pinochet dictatorship, Communist Party legal counsel Eduardo Contreras said this week.

The 1982 death of former President Eduardo Frei Montalva, who governed from 1964-1970, at the Santa Marta Clinic after undergoing a routine procedure has been attributed to poisoning.

“Pablo Neruda died in the same clinic, on the same floor, with the same doctors and several of the same nurses,” Contreras said.

The 1971 Nobel Prize winner died as he was preparing to travel to Mexico on a mission to organise opposition to Pinochet, the attorney said.

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