Cartoonist Vilma Vargas accused of racism and "graphic violence".


Imagine drawing a cartoon about a corruption case of bestial proportions involving judges, police, politicians, journalists and many strata of society and the government of your country and you end up being accused of intrusion into the intimate life of the prosecutor, of"graphic violence", of racism and so many other ugly things. This is exactly what has happened to Vilmatraca.

I admit that the "graphic violence" thing has caught me off guard, and at this point in the film I was not expecting such an absurd new subterfuge to criminalise graphic humour.

On 26 March, Ecuadorian cartoonist Vilma Vargas Vallejo, "Vilmatraca" (Riobamba, 1978) published this image on her Twitter(X) account, as she usually does. Vilma usually receives many interactions every time she publishes a cartoon, and this one is no exception.

To understand the context of the cartoon, the scene alludes to chats published by the Ecuadorian Attorney General's Office, which can be consulted here, related to the "Metastasis" case on organised crime offences.

Context, Metastasis case

According to Diana Salazar, the Attorney General's Office team called the case"Metastasis ", in which crimes of organised crime are being investigated "because corruption is a cancer that not only attacks the judiciary, but also affects various areas of society, such as the National Police, politicians and even the media".

Leandro Noreno Tigua, known as"El patrón", was considered one of the country's main drug traffickers and was also accused of links to the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation ( CJNG).

Following his murder in the Social Rehabilitation Centre of Cotopaxi (Lacatunga prison) on 3 October 2022, the investigation by the Attorney General's Office obtained several pieces of evidence, including the mobile phones with which the now deceased and alleged leader of a criminal organisation dedicated, among other illicit activities, to drug trafficking, had set up his strategy to evade justice with the support of a group structured for these purposes.

This motley group includes politicians, police officers, judges, prosecutors, officials of the Judiciary Council and the SNAI, prison officials, practising lawyers, businessmen and journalists. The list of those prosecuted is available on the prosecutor's website.

Understanding the cartoon

It took me several hours and quite a few consultations, both to understand the cartoon and the reactions. I also chatted with Vilma Vargas, who already knew about this other move. Even so, I don't rule out that my distance from this issue (not only geographically) may have led me to make some unintentional mistake. Be that as it may, I hope that this distance has also contributed to my being somewhat more aseptic.

In the scene, the author recreates a photograph, disseminated at the time by Assemblyman Fernando Villacencio (murdered in 2023), of some of the people involved in the Metastasis case bathing in the swimming pool of a house in Miami, owned by Xavier Jordán, prosecuted in a corruption scheme in the Teodoro Maldonado Carbo Hospital during the pandemic and who is also linked to Leandro Norero.

There are 16 characters in the picture.

From left to right and from top to bottom are the journalist who released one of the cases, Anderson Boscan, the mafiosi, former president Guillermo Lasso and his brother-in-law, former president Rafael Correa supporting his politician Rony Aleaga, prosecutor Diana Salazar supporting former president Lenin Moreno in a wheelchair. Below is Jaime Nebot (with moustache) supporting his politician Pablo Muentes, the lawyers who helped the narcos and another journalist, Carlos Vera (in a floater) who is accused of occupying an office of one of the lawyers involved, Bibian Hernández, behind with glasses.

Finally, there is the current president, Daniel Noboa, throwing banknotes in the air in allusion to an alleged "farra" in Madrid, something the government denied. In this regard, it should be added that the Spanish media "El Debate", promoted by the Catholic Association of Propagandists, from which this supposed information came out, to put it mildly, does not provide any concrete sources or audiovisual documentation to confirm what is reported.

The scene of discord

The attorney general, Diana Salazar, who is prosecuting this case, also appears in the vignette because one of those involved, Rony Aleaga, claimed that he had an intimate relationship with her. The Prosecutor General's Office has branded Aleaga's claims as a"new smear campaign" against its head in order to divert its attention.

Vilma did nothing more than a satirical exercise with this situation by portraying Aleaga, from which a lover's heart emerges, as he grabs the prosecutor by the ankle.

Cartoonist Vilma Vargas accused of racism and "graphic violence".

"Graphic violence

Because of the way the prosecutor was shown, the NGO "Participación Ciudadana" cut out this piece of the illustration, taking away all the context and meaning of the cartoon, in order to put Vilma Vargas in a bag of racism and "graphic violence" by showing the cut-out together with insults and racist comments.

Reading Participación Ciudadana's message, one might think that Vilma, instead of having drawn a joke about corruption, has committed a crime against humanity.

And of course, we all know that such a hot comment, in the heat of the moment, tends to have an immediate "fuse effect" and once it is lit, it is difficult for it not to end up exploding on someone. Thus, Vilma has received a good amount of various insults and some users have already uploaded their photos to write more aggressive and threatening comments. Tuiter in its purest state of torches in the wind, needless to say how these things tend to escalate.

The author speaks

Vilma Vargas considers that "as the prosecutor is of African descent, the drawing has been branded as racist, implying that I have drawn her in an animal print swimming costume to suggest that I intend Diana Salazar to be seen as a 'caveman or primate', but this is not true".

"The print on her swimming costume is nothing more than a resource to allude to the work of the prosecutor in the Leon de Troya case, hence the Lion skin print, which is not the first time I have used it in a cartoon about the case, as can be seen in this other cartoon published in September 2023".

Cartoonist Vilma Vargas accused of racism and "graphic violence".
Vilma Vargas. September 2023

Vilma recalls that"in the country every 26 hours a woman is murdered, in Latin America 7 out of 10 women have suffered some kind of violence but, you see, they are more offended by a drawing than by this reality we live in" and adds that"this NGO should have a list of how political cartoons should be made in Ecuador".

Cartoonist Vilma Vargas accused of racism and "graphic violence".

Humour in trouble, a collection of cases
Cases of cartoonists who have had problems of some importance because of their cartoons or satirical illustrations. There are also some stories of other people who, without being cartoonists, have got into trouble for sharing them.

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2 thoughts on “Cartoonist Vilma Vargas accused of racism and "graphic violence".”

  1. It seems like the cartoonist is trying to express that eventually everything is the same in Ecuador: good and bad.
    It doesn't help to an average Ecuadorian who is trying to separate what is good and bad in his society.
    I rather take it as a bad joke proper of people lacking on judgement.
    She can definitely do better.

    • Hi, Miquel
      Thanks for your visit and for your opinion.
      The author insists that she is simply describing in a satirical way an event related to Aliaga's statements.
      Where exactly do you see her equating her or accusing the prosecutor of being the same as the rest of the characters?


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