In the press, on TV and Twitter, the president of Ecuador wages another war of words against cartoonist Bonil

In the continuing saga between Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa and cartoonist Xavier
“Bonil” Bonilla, the head of state took time out of his weekly national broadcast Jan. 30 to address a recent cartoon published in newspaper El Universo.

Correa’s complaints concern a Jan. 27 Bonil cartoon published in El Universo that depicts four elephants with the following written on them: Aeropuerto Tena (a government-owned airport), Refinería Pacífico (a government-planned refinery), Yachay (a government-planned research university) and UNASUR (the South American regional organization whose headquarters were built in Quito).  Next to them is a cartoon of the Peruvian talk show host Laura Bozzo yelling: “Bring in the next white elephant!”

The white elephant is usually a symbol of a big and expensive project, usually created by the government, that is considered wasteful.

Correa said Bonil created the cartoon to coincide with the Quito meeting of heads of state from the regional bloc Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC for its acronym in Spanish) so that other presidents would see it and it would make the country look badLa República said. He also defended the projects named by Bonil in the cartoon.

During his weekly broadcast on Jan. 30, “Correa dedicated his video segment ‘La cantinflada of the week’ to Bonil, whom he called ‘the pamphleteer of El Universo’,” according to freedom of expression organization Fundamedios. Cantinflada is a term used to refer to a talkative person who speaks nonsense.

After the video played, Correa said “it is not humor, it is a lampoon…Humor cannot be deception, comrades. Refuse this, refuse. Confront these people. When you go in the street, confront them: ‘listen, you should be honest, start being decent’. These things should not go unpunished. Here the government should not react, the citizens should react.” [ed. note: the video starts around the 2:35:00 mark]

The president and his supporters also used Twitter to defend the projects.

For his part, Bonil published a cartoon showing Correa calling to caged blue birds that resemble the Twitter icon: “Twitter users…support…come…insult him.” Accompanying the Tweet, Bonil wrote: “Showing my photo, His Majesty asked in sabatina #460 that when I go on the street, “they confront” me for my cartoons.”

The Superintendency of Information and Communication (Supercom), which regulates media in Ecuador, recently admitted a complaint from the Ecuadorian Federation of LGBT Organizations against El Universo for one of Bonil’s cartoons that was published in December 2015.  Yet, this is not his first run-in with the media regulatory agency.

In 2014, Bonil was called before Supercom for a December 2013 cartoon referring to a police raid of the home of journalist and activist Fernando Villavicencio. Correa called Bonil an “ink assassin” because of the cartoon. Supercom forced El Universo to publish a “correction” cartoon and the newspaper was fined.

Then, in February 2015, Bonil and the newspaper also were forced to publish an apology for another cartoon.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.