On the afternoon of February 3rd, one of the final chapters of the 1973 death of the poet Pablo Neruda was about to be written, entering its crucial phase after more than 10 years of investigations in the Chilean judicial system. A panel of international experts meeting on January 25 is due this Friday to present the conclusions of a report that will determine whether or not the origin of the Clostridium botulinum bacterium found in the writer’s body in 2017 is toxic. It’s basic scientific information for the decision the judge will have to make in the Paola Plaza case to determine whether the writer died of prostate cancer or poisoning, but the report’s results will have to wait three more days. The fires sweeping the country prevented Chilean biochemist Romilo Espejo from traveling to Santiago, Chile for the presentation or connecting via the internet.
Plumes of smoke caused by fires in Tome, Chile this Friday DPA via Europa Press (DPA via Europa Press)
Espejo, National Award for Applied Sciences 2018, is one of the members of the panel composed of scientists from Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, Denmark, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Chile who discussed the conclusions virtually. His presence was vital as he had been appointed spokesman for the scientific team to release the conclusions that will determine the course of the Neruda case.
This international body is the third to meet on the Neruda case. And in his report he has to determine whether or not the bacterium found in the poet’s body six years ago, Clostridium botulinum, is of toxic origin. Although these conclusions will be essential to determine whether or not third parties have intervened, after reading the document, Judge Paola Plaza will make a judicial decision regarding the case.
Pablo Neruda died on September 23, 1973, when he was admitted to the San María Clinic in Santiago, twelve days after the military coup. Historically, the known cause of death was prostate cancer, but in 2011 the Communist Party — of which the writer was a member — filed a lawsuit in which he advanced a new thesis: chemical poisoning.
Rodolfo Reyes, lawyer and nephew of Pablo Neruda, upon his arrival at the February 3 performance. Ailen Diaz (EFE)
This hypothesis is based on the testimony of Manuel Araya, who was the poet’s driver and brought him to the clinic in 1973 from his home in Isla Negra, a coastal town 100 kilometers from Santiago.
“It’s not normal for a person to have this substance, but it can be from many things and it can be multicausal. One of these explanations is the thesis of the complaint that a substance was vaccinated to cause death. That’s for the genomic panel to determine,” Judge Plaza said a week ago in reference to the bacteria.
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