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What killed Neruda? Chile court says death should be reinvestigated

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SANTIAGO: The death of Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda days after Chile’s 1973 military coup should be reinvestigated, an appeals court ruled on Tuesday, saying new steps could help clarify what killed the poet. Last Dec, a judge rejected a request by Neruda’s nephew to reopen the case to look for causes other than cancer, which was listed on his death certificate.The nephew, Rodolfo Reyes, said forensic experts from Canada, Denmark and Chile had found evidence pointing to Neruda being poisoned.
Reyes said the foreign forensic tests indicated that Neruda’s body had “a great quantity of Cloristridium botulinum, which is incompatible with human life.” The toxin can cause nervous system paralysis and death.
The ruling was 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 his driver argued for decades he was poisoned.
In Dec, a judge ruled the forensic results had already been carried out or were “late,” and didn’t lead anywhere. On Tuesday, the appeals court unanimously revoked the judge’s resolution and ordered that the procedures requested by the nephew be done. These steps include a calligraphic analysis of the death certificate, a meta-analysis of the test results carried out by foreign agencies, and subpoenas for statements from Chile’s documentation project and an expert on Clostridium botulinum.
Neruda was a Communist Party member and friend of Chile’s President Salvador Allende, whose govt was toppled in a coup. Neruda was traumatised by the military takeover and planned to go into exile in Mexico, where he would have been an influential voice against the dictatorship. But a day before his departure, he was taken to a clinic in Santiago, where he died on Sept 23, 1973. ap

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