9:13 pm - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Probe into Neruda’s death to be reopened

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Chile will reopen an investigation into the death of Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda to determine if the poet was poisoned more than 40 years ago by a military dictatorship, after tests on his exhumed body in 2013 found no evidence to back the claims.

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.

“There is initial evidence that he was poisoned and in that sense the signs point to the intervention of specific agents … that could constitute a crime against humanity,” Francisco Ugas, the head of the government’s humans rights department, said on Wednesday.

The poet’s chauffeur has said 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. The new forensic testing will look for inorganic or heavy metals in Neruda’s remains to try to determine a direct or indirect cause of death.

It will focus on detecting if there is any cellular or protein damage caused by chemical agents, whereas the prior testing looked specifically for the remains of poison.

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