Cross words over alleged Venezuelan crossword plot
Puzzling accusations labelled hogwash by the opposition.
CARACAS, Venezuela, Wednesday May 16, 2012 — The opposition has labelled it hogwash, and even some government supporters are ridiculing it, suggesting that Venezuelans are hardly lost for words over a state TV host's allegation that a newspaper crossword puzzle may have concealed a plot to kill President Hugo Chavez’s elder brother.
Intelligence agents questioned the puzzle’s author after TV presenter Miguel Perez Pirela indicated that one of his crosswords 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, who has composed 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 for questioning after intelligence agents turned 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," Segovia said.
Other TV programmes echoed Perez's concerns, but some government supporters questioned the theory in messages on Twitter.
Nestor Francia, a pro-government poet and writer, went further, posting a critical article on the pro-Chavez website aporrea.org.
"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?"
"We should once again make a call to be serious and responsible with what we say in the public media," he added.
Jose Vicente Carrasquero, a political science professor at Venezuela's Simon Bolivar University, said that the government is making "generic accusations like these against the opposition to avoid having the electoral campaign fall into pertinent issues".
Chavez, who has been undergoing cancer treatment, is running for re-election in October against state governor Henrique Capriles, and the leftist president has repeatedly warned that his opponents could try to provoke violence or destabilize the country if defeated.
Chavez, who survived a brief coup in 2002, has previously claimed repeatedly during his 13-year presidency that his adversaries aim to overthrow him or even kill him.
Opposition politicians have dismissed talk of plots by Chavez adversaries as hogwash.
Opposition lawmaker Julio Borges said the latest accusation of a hidden plot in a crossword seems to be an attempt to distract from other issues ahead of the October 7 election.
"This is another smoke screen," he said.