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CrosswordMan via Flickr
Venezuela

Did a crossword maker try to encourage people to kill the president's brother? Probably not

Government critics and supporters alike are amused at the suggestion of a pundit on a state-run TV station.

SUPPORTERS AND CRITICS like have reacted with amusement to the suggestion of a pundit on a Venezuelan state-run TV channel, who claimed the maker of a newspaper crossword was trying to encourage the murder of the brother of the country’s president.

TV host Miguel Perez Pirela suggested earlier this week that Wednesday’s crossword in the Ultimas Noticias was encouraging the assassination of Hugo Chavez, after including the word ‘asesinen’ (murder) intersecting with the word ‘Adan’, the first name of Hugo Chavez’s elder brother who is also a prominent politician.

As Reuters reports, Adan’s first name appeared directly underneath the word ‘rafagas’, which can mean either ‘gusts of wind’ or ‘gunfire’.

Suggesting a link between the positioning of the words while presenting a programme on the state-run VTV, Perez Pirela claimed his theory was backed up by a team of psychologists and mathematicians – and noted that similar methods of hiding messages were used during World War II.

The BBC quoted the newspaper as saying the compiler, Neptali Segovia, voluntarily visited the headquarters of the national intelligence agency the following day, to try and clear up any accusations that he was planting deliberate messages in the crossword.

“I went because no-one is more interested in clarifying this than me,” said the English teacher, who has compiled the crossword every day for the last 17 years.

Though the suggestion has been ridiculed by both sides – with both pro- and anti-government commentators accusing VTV of paranoia – the weight given to the allegations is a sign of growing political unease.

The furore came as the Venezuelan head of state was in Cuba undergoing further treatment for cancer, just five months ahead of his planned re-election campaign seeking a fourth term as president.

Some political commentators had suggested that Aran Chavez – who served as education minister in his brother’s cabinet before becoming a state governor – could step in as the Socialist candidate if Hugo was too unwell to campaign.

Arriving back in Cuba after his treatment, Hugo said he had “successfully completed the radiation cycle” and was “very hopeful” for a good recovery.

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