SANTIAGO – Family members of poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) denounced on Thursday that the investigation to determine whether he was poisoned by state agents during the Pinochet dictatorship is stalled because the Chilean government owes roughly $16,000 to two international laboratories.
Rodolfo Reyes, who is Neruda’s nephew and the family’s attorney, said during a meeting with the foreign press on Thursday that the debt has prevented a lab in Canada from carrying out the last test, which is crucial to solve the case.
“That last test, ordered by judge Mario Carroza, is extremely important but still hasn’t been done,” Reyes said.
Neruda was suffering from prostate cancer at the time he passed away and cachexia – cancer wasting syndrome – was listed as the official cause of death.
Last October, however, a global team of scientists concluded that Neruda did not die of cancer.
The group, which included recognized authorities from Chile, Spain, the United States, Denmark, Canada and France, was unable to determine exactly what killed Neruda, but their provisional findings pointed to a previously undetected toxin.
Another lawyer representing the poet’s family, Elisabeth Flores, said Thursday that the missing test is meant to examine samples of dirt from Neruda’s tomb to rule out the presence of bacteria found on Neruda’s molar.
If that occurs, scientists will be able to confirm that the bacteria were inoculated into Neruda’s body while he was being treated at the Santa Maria Clinic in Santiago, the lawyer said.
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.
Reyes accused the Ministry of the Interior of a “lack of political will” to pay the money owed to the laboratories and help solve the case.
Neruda, an active member of the Communist Party, died on Sept. 23, 1973, 12 days after Gen. Augusto Pinochet toppled Chile’s elected socialist government in a bloody coup.
The 1971 Nobel Prize winner died as he was preparing to travel to Mexico on a mission to organize opposition to Pinochet, according to Chilean Communist Party legal counsel Eduardo Contreras.