Critics: Crossword 'plot' clueless
Government critics - and even some supporters - are ridiculing a state TV host's claim that a newspaper crossword puzzle may have had a hidden call for a plot to kill the elder brother of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.
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 Mr 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 on Thursday 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," Mr Segovia said in an article published on Friday.
Other programmes on state television echoed Mr Perez's concerns, but some government supporters questioned the theory in messages on Twitter.
Nestor Francia, a poet and writer who favours Mr Chavez's socialist government, 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," 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 Venezuela's 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 rampant violent crime and 24% inflation.
Mr Chavez, who has been undergoing cancer treatment, is running for re-election in October against state governor Henrique Capriles, and the left-wing president has repeatedly warned that his opponents could try to provoke violence or destabilise the country if defeated.
Mr Chavez, who survived a brief coup in 2002, has claimed repeatedly during his 13-year presidency that his adversaries aim to overthrow him or even kill him.