A cartoonish affair

5adf8f77-2045-4797-a0fd-ed0a0aaba3ff_W_00600The aftermath of the murders of PSUV MP Roberto Serra and his assistant María Herrera last week, along with the discussion on who was behind them and why, has grabbed the attention of the country in the last few days. Here at CC, it is no different.

But a side controversy appeared over the weekend, one which indirectly touched upon the case thanks to a combination of unlucky timing, overreaction, lack of proper information, and the remains of our hyper-polarized and sensitive public sphere.

At the center of all this: a cartoon made by Roberto Weil, one of Venezuela’s top cartoonists (and a personal favorite of mine).

The cartoon in question simply shows a rat eulogizing a fellow rat in a funeral, which is part of a series of vignettes Mr. Weil did for Ultimas Noticias’ Sunday magazine. These cartoons (which present animals doing things human beings usually do) were not supposed to be of political nature, in comparison with his main job in the newspaper Tal Cual.

But some high-ranking members of Chavismo like Caracas Transformation Commissioner Ernesto Villegas and Aragua State Governor  Tarek El Aissami saw this as a harsh attack on Robert Serra, and demanded an investigation. At the same time, the same edition of magazine Dominical was withdrawn and replaced with a cartoon-free version.

In his defense, Weil indicated that that cartoon was delivered two weeks in advance, and that he fully agreed with the GUN’s decision to withdraw it. Later, the editor of Dominical Nilda Silva Franco confirmed this in a statement.

But in a case of “you’re right but you’re going to jail anyway”, Mr Weil has apparently been fired from Dominical.

Even if he was clear of any wrongdoing, it looks like HegemonCorp. couldn’t resist the chance of giving the central government a symbolic trophy in order to make up for the unintended mess they have produced.

But what else can be expected from a media group too busy trying to force journalists to quit or taking credit for the recognized work of its former investigative team, even with they recently dismantled it because of their refusal to followthe new editorial line.

My full solidarity with Mr. Weil, who now faces another serious struggle, as TalCual could shut down at the end of the month thanks to the combination of Newsprint-geddon and the judicial offensive against this newspaper. And in a little twist of irony, Grupo Ultimas Noticias actually has its share of the blame on all of this as well: under the excuse of “technical reasons,” they suddenly stopped printing and distributing Tal Cual, something they had handled for years.