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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La thèse de l’assassinat de Neruda se précise

by Muriel Steinmetz

The Thesis of the Assassination of Neruda is Becoming Clearer

Translated Friday 29 April 2016, by Henry Crapo

The guard of honor in Santiago, last Monday, around the coffin of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who died on September 23, 1973.

Photo by Martin Bernett, of AFP.

The remains of the great Chilean poet have now been buried again, after a series of analyzes, of which the results are not yet known.

The remains of the great poet Pablo Neruda, Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, exhumed in 2013 on Isla Negra, after a long judicial battle to determine if he was murdered by agents of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, were buried again on Tuesday. A symbolic farewell ceremony was held Monday in the Hall of Honor of the Chilean Congress. The coffin of Neruda was draped in the national flag.

After so many years, his death still remains problematic. According to his bodyguard, Pablo Neruda was killed.

According to the death certificate drawn up by the military junta then in power, the poet, a communist activist, died of prostate cancer a few days after the 1973 coup. According to his driver and bodyguard, Manuel Araya, Neruda was murdered. It was his testimony that enabled the Communist Party of Chile (the CPC) to file a criminal complaint in 2011 for exhumation. Interviewed by Cathy Ceïbe in l’Humanité of 23 September 2013, Manuel Araya evoked a "mysterious injection" made to the poet the day before his departure for Mexico. Neruda was, at the time, since 19 September, in the clinic of Santa Maria in Santiago. "He was worried about what was happening in his country, and saddened by the death of Salvador Allende. We, we feared for his life, as we knew him to be in danger. The Mexican ambassador wanted to get him out of the country. Neruda should, in any case, have left for Mexico on 24 September 1973. On the 22nd, he told me to go to Isla Negra to pack his bags. When we left there with Matilde, he was well. Then in the afternoon, we received a call to inform us that someone had given him an injection. When we returned to the clinic, Neruda was red, and he told me that his body was on fire. It was very strange, but I was sent to buy a medication. Why, when we were already in a clinic? When I went out out, two cars stopped me and took me to the police headquarters. Neruda died on 23 September. "

What is more, the doctor Sergio Draper, believed to have given him the injection, retracted this statement when called upon to testify, confessing that he was not even at the clinic that day.

Since the exhumation of the body of the poet, analyzes have followed one another, without definitive result. In May 2014, a team of Spanish researchers revealed the massive presence of Staphylococcus aureus found on the remains, with which Neruda could have been inoculated by agents of the dictatorship. Four laboratories in the United States, Spain, Norway and Denmark are now conducting DNA analyzes of these Staphylococcus aureus. "We are awaiting these analyzes", the lawyer of the Chilean Communist Party, Eduardo Contreras, who was at the origin of these investigative requests, told AFP. "They are the key to whether this Staphylococcus aureus was passed to Neruda at that time or if, instead, it appeared on his remains because of subsequent handling." He added that these bacteria "were elements often used by Eugenio Berrios (chemist of Pinochet’s secret police, responsible for the design of chemical weapons) and this particular strain is not one of those that may have existed at that time in the clinic" in Santiago where Neruda was staying.

"Neruda had said to me, ’I am going to Mexico, comrade’ ", Manuel Araya repeated. "There, I will ask for help from around the world to topple Pinochet." In 1982, admitted to the same clinic for a minor operation, former president Eduardo Frei (1964-1970) there died. The hypothesis of poisoning was more than likely. Which somewhat further strengthens the thesis of the murder of Neruda.

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