Bioagents may have killed former Chilean president

A U.S. Embassy cable recently released by Wikileaks suggests that chemical or biological agents may have been behind the 1982 death of Eduardo Frei Montalva, a former Chilean president and prominent Pinochet critic.

Chile’s current president said his Interior Ministry will be in support of an independent probe into what may have really caused Frei Montalva’s suspicious death during a routine hernia operation, according to the New York Times.

The recently published cable from December 11, 2009, is an analysis of the case that was sent to Washington after charges were filed. It says Pinochet’s spies were known to have been developing chemical and biological agents to be used on their political enemies.

The official report of Frei Montalva’s death labeled the cause of death as septic shock occurring during stomach hernia surgery, the New York Times reports. Investigative Judge Alejandro Madrid announced in 2009 that he found evidence that Pinochet’s spies had covered up the true cause.

A later autopsy by pathologists at the University of Chile identified two chemicals in the body that attack the digestive system. One is used in mustard gas and the other in rat poison.

"He was injected with toxic substances, which produced other complications that deteriorated his immune system," Madrid said, according to the New York Times. "That was the cause of death."

The U.S. Embassy, however, casts doubts on the idea that the truth behind the mysterious death may ever be known. It claims that the unofficial autopsies failed to preserve the chain of evidence and concluded that chemical evidence would have disappeared long ago.

"The Embassy is not aware of any direct evidence indicating foul play," the cable said, according to the New York Times. "Given the extremely long time since Frei's death and the destruction of some key organs, forensic science may not be able to provide definitive evidence whether Frei was murdered.

“Chile's tragic recent history continues to divide its people, and the death of this emblematic president seems destined to be yet one more area in which the full truth may never be known."