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In Venezuela, cross words over crossword

CARACAS, Venezuela – Government critics, and even some supporters, are ridiculing a state TV host’s allegation that a newspaper crossword puzzle may have had a hidden call for a plot to kill President Hugo Chavez’s elder brother.

Intelligence agents questioned the author of the puzzle after state TV presenter Miguel Perez Pirela pointed out that Wednesday’s crossword contained the word “ASESINEN,” or kill, intersecting with the name of Chavez’s brother, “ADAN.” He noted they were below the word “RAFAGAS,” meaning either gusts of wind or bursts of gunfire.

Neptali Segovia, an English teacher who has prepared crossword puzzles for the newspaper Ultimas Noticias for 17 years, said it was nonsense to think there was a hidden code in the puzzle. He told the newspaper that he went voluntarily to be questioned Thursday after intelligence agents showed up 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,” he said.

Other programs 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 favors Chavez’s socialist government, went further, posting 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,” Francia wrote. “From what cheap spy movie does someone get that orders for killings be given through a crossword?”

Jose Vicente Carrasquero, a political science professor at Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar University, said Saturday that the government is making “generic accusations like these against the opposition to avoid having the electoral campaign fall into pertinent issues,” such as rampant violent crime and 24 percent inflation.


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