Friday, November 8, 2013

Despite forensic report, judge insists upon further investigations into Pablo Neruda's death

According to the forensic report released yesterday by Servicio Medio Legal (SML), Pablo Neruda's death was caused by advanced prostate cancer, dispelling allegations of murder which have been sustained primarily by Neruda's chauffer and personal assistant, Manuel Araya. The awaited report ignited further conflict in Chile, challenging the dynamics of memory as opinion fluctuated in a spectrum which ranged from acceptance of the report, cynicism and outright denial.

Chile's right wing attempted to deride the exhumation of Neruda's remains, citing the forensic report as a reaffirmation of the obvious cause of death and describing the process as a manifestation of 'leftist paranoia'. The attempt to reclaim Neruda's memory as the poet of all Chileans, regardless of political affiliations, is reminiscent of the conspiracies detailed in El Doble Asesinato de Neruda, which explains the process through which the dictatorship and affiliated media sought to prepare the public for Neruda's imminent death.

Sentiment on behalf of Chile's left revealed the complexities of the country's memory struggle. While the report was accepted by some as a likely scenario, given the fact that Neruda indeed suffered from cancer, outrage over the published report overshadowed any form of acceptance.

Reaction on social media has cast doubts over the report, drawing comparisons with the death of former Chilean president Eduardo Frei Montalva, allegedly murdered by DINA while hospitalised in Clinica Santa Maria. Reports regarding his death Frei's death have been conflicting - some alleging that he had been administered thallium and mustard gas, while other reports declared the absence of toxic substances.

Neruda's chauffer, Manuel Araya, denounced the report and insisted that the poet had been murdered by the dictatorship at the Clínica Santa María. His allegations regarding the poet's death by lethal injection administered by a doctor whose identity is still disputed have been meticulously researched in light of Pinochet's determination to annihilate all leftist opposition, thus reducing the possibility of formidable opposition to his rule. Research has established that Neruda was planning to go into exile - such an accomplishment would have provided the possibility of an organised intellectual force against the dictatorship, a possibility which Pinochet dreaded due to the possibility of forming a government in exile and which led DINA to track the activity of dissidents and exiles.

Neruda's nephew, Rodolfo Reyes, insisted that the report is inconclusive and does not take into consideration all possible forms of assassination, such as the use of sarin gas - an opinion echoed by the family's lawyer, Eduardo Contreras, who insisted that further investigations should be carried out in order to dispel any fragments of doubt over the poet's death. Forensic expert Guillermo Repetto has also admitted the difficulty of detecting any traces of sarin gas and similar substances, indicating that despite the report's conclusion, the possibility of assassination at the hands of DINA cannot be absolutely eliminated. Judge Mario Carroza has declared the case still open and the possibility of assassination a cause for further investigation.


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