Only in a country like Venezuela with such tight and ridiculous controls on press freedom could a crossword writer be accused of embedding a call to kill the president's brother in a puzzle. Perez Pirela, a TV pundit who is something like a pro-Chavez Glenn Beck, made the accusation against veteran crossword writer Neptali Segovia, whose work appears in the the Ultimas Noticias
newspaper, on his show earlier this month. Segovia was then questioned by the national intelligence service.
According to Reuters
, Pirela said a number of mathematicians, psychologists and other experts examined the crossword and found the supposedly hidden message. Pirela regularly uses his morning show to lash into anything perceived as anti-Chavez. Apparently, even puzzles.
The particular puzzle included answers like "Adan", "asesinen" (meaning "kill") and "rafaga" (which can mean either a burst of gunfire, or a gust of wind). Coincidence or hidden message to kill Chavez's brother Adan? Chavez's government wanted to find out.
Six officers from Venezuela's intelligence service visited the offices of puzzle maker's newspaper to gather information. Segovia eventually turned himself in for questioning.
"I am the first to want to clarify this. I have nothing to hide because the work I have been doing for the last 17 years has only a cultural and education intention, and is transparent," Segovia told the local press.
"I was treated respectfully. They took down my comments and made a routine summary. Then they took me home."
Not everyone in the country took the scandal quite so seriously. A pro-opposition paper used the opportunity to print a satirical crossword on their own front page with clues like:
- "What officials do when they misuse public funds" (Corruption);
- "Perhaps the most abused law?" (Constitution);
- "Name of supreme leader who governs our destiny? Bearded." (Fidel Castro).