Crossword plot to kill puzzles Venezuela agents

Government critics — and even some supporters — are ridiculing a state television presenter’s claim that a newspaper crossword may have had a hidden call for a plot to kill the elder brother of Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez.

Intelligence agents questioned the puzzle’s author after television host Miguel Perez Pirela pointed out the crossword had the word “asesinen”, or “kill”, intersecting with the name of Chavez’s brother, “adan”. He noted they were below the word “rafagas”, meaning bursts of gunfire.

Neptali Segovia, an English teacher who has prepared crosswords for the newspaper Ultimas Noticias for 17 years, said it was nonsense to think there was a hidden code in the puzzle.

He went voluntarily to be questioned after intelligence agents arrived at the paper asking about him. “I went because I’m the first one interested in having all this cleared up. I have nothing to hide,” Segovia said.

Other programmes on state television echoed Perez’s concerns, but some government supporters questioned the theory in messages on Twitter.

Nestor Francia, a poet and writer who favours Chavez’s socialist government posted a critical article on the pro-Chavez website

“The complaint of a supposed hidden message in the crossword puzzle of Wednesday’s Ultimas Noticias doesn’t at all lend weight to our credibility in terms of the right’s conspiratorial plans,” he wrote.

“From what cheap spy movie does someone get that orders for killings be given through a crossword? We should once against make a call to be serious and responsible with what we say in the public media.”

Jose Vicente Carrasquero, a political science professor at Simon Bolivar University, said the government was making “generic accusations like these against the opposition to avoid having the electoral campaign fall into pertinent issues”, such as crime and 24% inflation.

Chavez is running for re-election in October.

He has claimed repeatedly during his 13-year presidency that his adversaries aim to overthrow him or even kill him.


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