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Court fines comedian over Chávez's daughter

Laureano Marquez accepted Janine Vici's donation to help pay a fine for violating the reputation of Hugo Chávez's daughter. (Leslie Mazoch/associated press)

CARACAS -- Comedian Laureano Marquez has poked fun at politicians for decades without getting into trouble with the law, so he didn't think twice about writing a tongue-in-cheek newspaper editorial based on a dialogue between President Hugo Chávez and his 9-year-old daughter.

But Marquez and a publishing company that printed the column in the Tal Cual newspaper are facing fines imposed by a local court for "violating the honor, reputation and private life" of Rosines Chá vez Rodriguez, the president's youngest daughter.

Marquez denies any wrongdoing and says the $18,600 fine imposed on the publisher is part of a government initiative in which pro-Chá vez prosecutors and judges are being used to silence critics.

Ch ávez, who accuses Venezuela's privately-owned media of conspiring to topple his government, denies restricting press freedoms.

Marquez insists he meant no harm when he used 9-year-old Rosines as a medium for mocking her father's decision in 2005 to remake Venezuela's coat of arms so that a white horse would appear galloping left, not right -- a suspected an evident metaphor for Cháavez's revolutionary politics.

During a radio broadcast Chá vez told listeners that Rosines said the horse looked strange running to the right on the nations coat of arms . Within weeks, lawmakers pushed through a reform changing the coat of arms.

In the editorial, Marquez suggested she ask her father to trade the horse on the new coat of arms for a devoted house pet, such as a tortoise -- "a good symbol of our sluggishness in everything."