Crossword puzzle stirs controversy in Venezuela

Among the answers to a crossword puzzle that ran in a Venezuelan newspaper were A-D-A-N,the first name of President Hugo Chávez’s brother; R-A-F-A-G-A-S,which can refer to a burst of machine-gun fire but also a gust of wind; and A-S-E-S-I-N-E-N,which in Spanish is the plural of the imperative form of the verb to kill

Written by New York Times | Lima | Published: May 13, 2012 1:01 am

WILLIAM NEUMAN

Among the answers to a crossword puzzle that ran in a Venezuelan newspaper on Wednesday were A-D-A-N,the first name of President Hugo Chávez’s brother; R-A-F-A-G-A-S,which can refer to a burst of machine-gun fire but also a gust of wind; and A-S-E-S-I-N-E-N,which in Spanish is the plural of the imperative form of the verb to kill.

In the polarized world of Venezuelan politics,where the president’s backers and critics are at each other’s throats over the smallest of matters,the puzzle was interpreted by some as not only a political attack on Chávez but an out-and-out death threat on his kin.

“This is a message,” declared Miguel Pérez Pirela,the host of a show on state television and a vehement backer of Chávez who interpreted the answers as a not-so-secret code against the president’s brother,who is the governor of Barinas State.

On his show,Pérez,according to Reuters,used as examples the secret messages that the French resistance leader Charles de Gaulle sent to fighters during World War II,and said he had assembled a group of mathematicians and other experts who agreed with his interpretation.

But Neptalí Segovia,the longtime puzzle writer for the newspaper,Últimas Noticias,dismissed that sinister view and said his puzzle had no political motive. His newspaper reported Friday that Segovia had voluntarily visited the National Intelligence Service on Thursday night to offer his version of events. That followed a visit to the newspaper by a team of intelligence agents seeking information on Segovia. “I went because I am the first one interested in clearing this up,” the newspaper quoted Segovia as saying. “I have nothing to hide.”

Segovia,who has been writing crosswords for the paper for more than 17 years,said the accusations against him were ridiculous. He blamed “irresponsible people who are seeking to generate a controversy in an election season.”

That election,in October,pits Chávez,who has held office since 1999,against Henrique Capriles Radonski. Adding to the tension is the uncertainty over the health of Chávez,who has been undergoing treatment in Cuba for an undisclosed form of cancer.

Chavez returns after treatment
CARACAS:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned home Friday after 11 days of cancer treatment in Cuba,saying his latest round of radiation therapy was successful.

AP

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