MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay -- A senior police official Monday formally challenged a newspaper publisher to a duel, seeking to redeem honor he said was tarnished in a story accusing him of possible corruption.
Uruguay's chief police inspector, Saul Claveria, sent his seconds to Federico Fasano, editor of the tabloid La Republica, to follow through formally on a recent threat to challenge the newspaperman to a duel.
Though legal, dueling is rare in Uruguay, which permits the practice in a law dating to 1920.
The newspaper, under the direction of Fasano, reported Jan. 24 that Claveria was the registered owner of two cars seized by Montevideo police on the suspicion of having been used to import goods illegally.
The police inspector denied responsibility for the case and called for an Honor Court to be formed to judge his conduct.
An Honor Court is made up of three or four people designated by executive, congressional and judicial officials to decide whether the petitionor has a legitimate offense and the right to make the challenge.
The court decided that Claveria was innocent and that the government, through the Uruguayan Interior Ministry, authorized the challenge of Fasano to a duel.
The court held Fasano responsible for information published in his newspaper despite his absence from the country the day the report was published.
'I am going to listen to what (Claveria's) seconds have to say, and then I will decide what I am going to do,' Fasano said.
The editor had offered space in his paper to Claveria so that he could exercise 'his right to respond,' but the police official rejected the offer, opting to take up arms to 'make amends.'
Claveria designated the General Inspector of the police, Ubaldo Genta, and Col. Alfredo Rubio to represent him as seconds against Fasano.
Fasano named journalist Danilo Arbilla, a vice president of the Inter-American Press Society, and Leonardo Guzman, editor of the newspaper Lea, as his personal representatives.
Fasano said he felt the era of dueling has passed but said he could 'not ruling anything out. To fight a duel in the current days would be an anachronism.'
If Fasano accepts the challenge, his seconds will meet with Claveria's representatives to decide the details, including the weapons to be used and whether the duel would be to first blood or to the death.
Despite strong criticism from politicians, Claveria forged ahead with legal preparations for the duel while the Uruguayan Press Association backed Fasano.
The press association said the dispute should be resolved in the courts.
'The freedom of expression is unrestricted in Uruguay and the only limit is that written in the law,' it said. 'Before (the law) is where persons should go who feel injured by the press and not before Honor Courts.'
Though it has been some 20 years since a public duel was fought in Uruguay, such encounters were common in the 1960s, when a half-dozen were fought.