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Scientists claim no evidence Chilean poet Neruda was poisoned

Experts say they have found no evidence that the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was fatally poisoned. It had been alleged that the Nobel Prize winner was targeted for assassination by the regime of General Augusto Pinochet.

Forensic experts who examined Neruda's remains said they had found nothing that would lead them to suspect that the writer was fatally dosed with poison.

The study instead confirmed that prostate cancer had caused the poet's death in 1973, soon after the Pinochet regime came to power in a coup.

"No relevant chemical agents that could be linked to Mr. Neruda's death were found," said Patricio Buso, director of Chile's medical legal service.

Neruda (pictured above, right) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He was famed for his passionate love poetry and was an active member of the Communist Party. He was also a diplomat and a close friend of socialist President Salvador Allende, who was removed from power in the September 11, 1973, coup led by the right-wing Pinochet.

Neruda had reportedly been planning on going into exile, and it is expected he would have been a powerful critic of the regime from afar.

Neruda's remains were exhumed in April and examined by both Chilean and foreign forensic experts. Suspicions about the poisoning after Neruda's driver claimed the writer had been given a mysterious injection while he was bedridden a Santiago clinic, just hours before he died.

Lesions indicate cancer

The clinic was where Neruda was being treated at the time for prostate cancer.

"Various complementary techniques confirmed the existence of metastatic lesions disseminated in various segments of the skeleton that correspond exactly with the disease for which Mr. Pablo Neruda was being treated,"

Analysis was conducted in the United States and Spain, revealing "no forensic evidence at all that would permit us to establish a medico-legal etiology of non-natural causes in the death."

Neruda's nephew, Rudolfo Reyes, said the family was still not satisfied, but welcomed what it said was an objective result. "There's still a way to go," said Reyes.

The Chilean Communist Party said that more needed to be established. "Today we're going to request more samples," said party lawyer Eduardo Contreras. "They referred to chemical agents but there are no studies about biological agents. A very important chapter has closed and was done very seriously but this is not over."

Neruda's most famous work is perhaps the Canto General, essentially an epic love poem to South America and its people. The writer was described by Colombian author and fellow Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez as "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language."

rc/hc (AFP, AP, dpa)