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Possible mustard gas poisoning of former Chilean president

Monday, January 22nd 2007 - 20:00 UTC
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Former President Eduardo Frei Montalvo Former President Eduardo Frei Montalvo

Former Chilean president Eduardo Frei Montalvo who died in 1982 could have been poisoned with mustard gas, according to a report from the Belgian University of Gant which is currently in the hands of the Chilean judge who has the case.

The report apparently states that three tissue samples from the former Christian democrat president show traces of the chemical weapon first used during the First World War One. However the report is not conclusive that mustard gas was the direct cause of the death of the former leader, but Chilean Justice now must investigate how it could have influenced his health situation or aggravated his condition leading to his death. Former elected president Frei, who ruled from 1964 to 1970 died in a Santiago clinic January 22, 1980 following two operations to address gastric regurgitation. According to the official version of the time, Mr. Frei then the leader of an incipient opposition to the General Pinochet dictatorship died of septicemia but his family always suspected that his death was more linked to the action of agents from the state secret police or military intelligence. The presence of mustard gas in tissue samples was discarded by the FBI in 2005. However the family and the judge were not convinced with the findings uncovered in United States and criticized the fact that not even the methodology employed for the analysis by the FBI was disclosed. The new report from the University of Gant comes precisely 25 years after Frei's death. On Monday Chilean president Michelle Bachelet is scheduled to head a tribute honoring the former president. His son Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle who also was president, (1994/2000) and is currently senator reiterated last January 18 his conviction that third persons were involved in the death of his father and was hopeful that 2007, "was going to become the decisive year" to solve the case. "We're surprised because we now know what chemical agent was used to intoxicate my father; we knew that the DINA (Pinochet's regime intelligence services) was manufacturing chemical products of that kind", said Carmen Frei, daughter of the former president. "We knew DINA doctors worked in the clinic where my father was operated, but the Gant university report comes as a surprise", added Ms Frei. "Actually we have been waiting to discover what was used to poison him, how it was done and now who did it". Mustard gas which was used massively during WWI, in its gaseous or liquid forms, damages the respiratory and digestive tracks of humans, kills red cells and opens the way for infections.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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