Forensic experts have determined that Chilean poet Pablo Neruda died of poisoning nearly 50 years ago, a family member of the Nobel Prize winner said Monday.
The revelation by Rodolfo Reyes, a Neruda nephew, is the latest turn in one of the great debates of post-coup Chile. The long-stated official position has been that Neruda died of complications from prostate cancer, but the poet’s driver argued for decades that he was poisoned.
There was no confirmation of Reyes’ comments from forensic experts from Canada, Denmark and Chile who are scheduled to publicly release a report Wednesday on the cause of Neruda’s death.
The public release of the group’s finding has been delayed twice this year, first due to internet connectivity issues of one of the experts and then again because a judge said the panel had yet to reach a consensus.
International forensics experts several years ago rejected the official cause of death as cachexia, or weakness and wasting of the body due to chronic illness — in this case cancer. But at that time they said they had not determined what did kill Neruda.
The report is set to be released almost 50 years after the death of the poet and Communist Party member and 12 years after the start of a judicial investigation into whether he was poisoned, as his driver Manuel Araya maintains.
Araya told AP earlier this month he was confident that the forensic findings would support his assertion the poet died after being given “an injection in the stomach” at the clinic where he was hospitalized. Araya said he first heard that version of events from a nurse.
Neruda, who was 69 and suffering from prostate cancer, died in the chaos that followed Chile’s Sept. 11, 1973, coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende and put Gen. Augusto Pinochet in power.
Neruda’s body was exhumed in 2013 to determine the cause of his death but those tests showed no toxic agents or poisons in his bone. His family and driver demanded further investigation.