SANTIAGO, Chile — Forensic experts have determined that Chilean poet Pablo Neruda died of poisoning nearly 50 years ago, a relative of the Nobel Prize winner said Monday.

The revelation of Rodolfo Reyes, Neruda’s nephew, is the latest twist in one of the great debates in post-coup Chile. The long-established official position has been that Neruda died of complications from prostate cancer, but the poet’s driver argued for decades that he was poisoned.

There was no confirmation of Reyes’ comments from forensic experts from Canada, Denmark and Chile, who are scheduled to publish a report Wednesday on Neruda’s cause of death.

The publication of the group’s finding was delayed twice this year, first because of Internet connectivity problems for one of the experts and then because a judge said the panel had not yet reached a consensus.

International forensic experts rejected several years ago that the official cause of death was cachexia, or weakness and wasting of the body due to a chronic disease, in this case cancer. But at the time they said they had not determined what killed Neruda.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Reyes said that forensic tests conducted in Danish and Canadian laboratories indicated the presence of «a large quantity of Chloristridium botulinum, which is incompatible with human life.» The powerful toxin can cause nervous system paralysis and death.

Reyes first revealed the information to the Spanish news agency EFE early Monday.

As a lawyer in the court case for the death of his uncle, Reyes said he has access to the forensic report, which was made after the same group of experts said in 2017 that there were indications of a toxin in the bones and a tooth of the deceased. poet. .

Laboratory tests concluded that the toxin was administered while the poet was alive, Reyes said.

The report will be published almost 50 years after the death of the poet and Communist Party militant and 12 years after the start of a judicial investigation into whether he was poisoned, as his host Manuel Araya maintains.

Araya told the AP earlier this month that he was confident that forensic findings would support his claim that the poet died after receiving «an injection in the stomach» at the clinic where he was hospitalized. Araya said he first heard that version of events from a nurse.

Neruda, who was 69 years old and suffered from prostate cancer, died in the chaos that followed the September 11, 1973 coup in Chile that ousted President Salvador Allende and put General Augusto Pinochet in power.

Neruda’s body was exhumed in 2013 to determine the cause of his death, but those tests did not show any toxic agents or poisons in his bone. His family and the driver demanded further investigation.

In 2015, the Chilean government said it was «highly probable that a third party» was responsible for Neruda’s death. Neruda was reburied in his favorite house overlooking the Pacific coast last year.

In 2017, a team of international scientists determined that Neruda did not die of cancer or malnutrition, rejecting the official cause of death but not saying what he died of.

«The fundamental conclusions are the nullity of the death certificate when it comes to cachexia as the cause of death,» said Aurelio Luna, one of the experts on the panel, at the time. «We still cannot exclude or affirm the natural or violent cause of Pablo Neruda’s death.»

Neruda, best known for his love poems, was a friend of Allende, who committed suicide rather than surrender to the troops during the Pinochet-led coup.

Neruda was traumatized by the military coup and the persecution and murder of his friends. He planned to go into exile, where he would have been an influential voice against the dictatorship.

But a day before his scheduled departure, he was taken by ambulance to a clinic in Santiago, the capital of Chile, where he had been treated for cancer and other ailments. Neruda officially died there on September 23, 1973 of natural causes.

But suspicions that the dictatorship had something to do with the death lingered long after Chile returned to democracy in 1990.

The former Mexican ambassador to Chile at the time of the bloody military coup, Gonzalo Martínez Corbalá, told the AP twice that he saw Neruda the day before his death and that his body weight was around 100 kilos (220 pounds). Martínez spoke to the AP by phone in 2017, a few days before his death.

Araya told the AP last month that he still thinks if Neruda «hadn’t stayed alone in the clinic, they wouldn’t have killed him.»

He recalled that on Neruda’s instructions, on Sunday, September 23, the poet’s wife, Matilde Urrutia, and he were at the mansion to pick up the suitcases that would be taken to Mexico the next day. In the middle of the afternoon Neruda asked them to come back quickly. He died that same night.

During his life, Neruda accumulated dozens of prizes, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, but in recent years criticism from feminist groups has appeared for a rape he committed in the 1930s and which he recounts in his book «I confess that I have vivid». .” He is also criticized for abandoning his only daughter, Malva Marina, because she was born with hydrocephalus.