Pablo Neruda's death is under investigation again.
Pablo Neruda's death is under investigation again. Wikimedia Commons

The Chilean judiciary decided on Tuesday to reopen the investigation into the death of the poet Pablo Neruda on September 23, 1973, an event that has been linked by his family and the Communist Party (PC) to the military dictatorship led by Augusto Pinochet. They believe that new evidence could contribute to clarifying what happened.

In a unanimous ruling, the Court of Appeals of Santiago stated: "Considering the evidence that the investigation has not been exhausted, and that there are precise procedures that could contribute to clarifying the facts, the reopening of the investigation is ordered."

More than fifty years have passed since the death of the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature, yet the concrete causes of his death remain a mystery.

Initially believed to be a result of prostate cancer, Neruda's death has been under investigation since 2011 following a complaint by the PC. They argue that the writer was poisoned while hospitalized at the Santa María Clinic in the Chilean capital after the military coup on September 11, 1973.

One of the key elements the investigation will include is a new analysis of the death certificate's handwriting, as well as a complete review of the inquiries carried out by experts from the Universities of McMaster and Copenhagen, who concluded that Neruda died of poisoning.

Peter Kornbluh, director of the Chile Documentation Project, and Eduardo Arriagada Rehren, were also requested to submit a statement about their work on clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that could have been responsible for his death.

International researchers who examined the Clostridium botulinum bacteria discovered in the poet's body in 2017 concluded in February 2023 that it originated endogenously, meaning it shouldn't naturally be present in his body. However, they were unable to determine whether it was a toxic strain or whether it was injected into his body or originated from contaminated food.

The Communist Party of Chile maintains that Neruda was injected with this bacteria as "a biological weapon," a theory that researchers have not yet ruled out due to circumstantial evidence: it was proven that some years later, in 1981, the Chilean military dictatorship poisoned political prisoners with potentially similar bacteria.

In line with the poisoning version, Manuel Araya, the poet's driver, repeatedly reported that Neruda received a lethal injection from agents of the dictatorship who infiltrated the Santa María Clinic.
Neruda is considered one of the greatest poets in the Spanish language and a prominent international figure. In 1969, the Communist Party of Chile designated him as a pre-candidate for the presidential elections, but in 1970, he stepped down in favor of Salvador Allende, who was elected but later overthrown by what then became the Pinochet dictatorship in 1973.

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