El Tiempo newspaper fires "Matador" over gender violence case


Everything about this story, which provoked heated debate in Colombia last week, is nonsensical in its trigger, its evolution and some surreal episodes.

On 29 March, the Colombian daily El Tiempo fired its cartoonist Julio César González, "Matador" (Pereira, 1969), but not for anything related to his cartoons.

The reason was an incident of gender violence that occurred ten years ago. The cartoonist, in a drunken state, assaulted and insulted Alejandra María Valencia, who was his partner at the time and is now his wife.

In its press release, the newspaper adds the logo of the campaign"No es hora de callar", an initiative started in 2010 and promoted by Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima, who on 25 May 2000 was tortured and raped by members of paramilitary groups and in 2003 was kidnapped again along with her photographer during the seizure of the municipality of Puerto Alvira.

El Tiempo newspaper fires "Matador" over gender violence case

Matador's vignettes have been published in the newspaper El Tiempo for two decades and this one, dated 27 March, is the last to appear in his web gallery.

The newspaper took this decision after the lawyer Abelardo de la Espriella made public the complaint filed by the cartoonist's wife in 2013 with all the details of the incident and, addressing the editor of the newspaper, asked for his dismissal.

On 27 March, de la Espriella had already published a video that begins by playing the audio of the cartoonist's wife's statement in which she recounts the assault. The lawyer, a histrionic character always embroiled in controversy, takes the opportunity to record himself with a ridiculous staging. De la Espriella appears seated at a piano on which rests a bottle of liquor and he lashes out at the cartoonist with all kinds of insults in a tone that is more than evident of euphoria and satisfaction for the revenge.

In addition, his lawyer's office is soliciting signatures to ask for Matador's case to be reopened for domestic violence.

Matador reacted to the news of his dismissal in the following way.

"Infinite thanks to all the subscribers and readers of El Tiempo during these 20 years of friendship. Today, the corrupt people I always attacked with my pencil are celebrating my downfall and they are firing me for a personal mistake I made and made amends for. Never lower your heads in the face of power. I love them.

To try to understand a little better the reactions of both sides to this event, which has become a painful spectacle, one has to know that it goes back a long way and one has to refer to the permanent exchange of attacks and confrontations between the lawyer, the cartoonist and many other people. To sum it up, the two had been at each other's throats for a long time and the quarrel escalated to such an extent that one of them ended up taking all the shit out of the other.

Another spark over cats

On 22 March, after it became known that 50 cats were burned alive in Santa Marta, in the north of the country. The internet took advantage of the news to remind the lawyer of some statements he made in an interview on the programme "The Suso's show" in 2014. Abelardo de la Espriella confessed that he was a "naughty boy" and that, among his pranks, there was one that today seems "terrible" to him, but which he assures that at the time he enjoyed: blowing up cats with rockets.

So, as things stand, the cat thing has ended up getting mixed up with the whole thing. And I don't really know how to explain it, but it is absurd and uncomfortable to see discussions that are based on trying to point the finger at one or the other as the most evil depending on whether they have mistreated cats or people.

The opinions of those who accuse the cartoonist of being an abuser also clash with those who claim that the lawyer's complaint has nothing to do with the defence of women and that it is nothing more than persecution for political discrepancies.

It is true, it must be said, that more than one has tried to "execute" Matador for his cartoons.

Cartoon war

And in the midst of all this mire, the cartoons could not be left out. To make matters worse, on 4 April, in the middle of the storm, Matador published a cartoon of his 8-year-old son, which brought him a lot of criticism from those who believe that it is not a good move to involve his son in this mess.

The image was accompanied by this text:

"My son Mateo, 8 years old, has made several drawings this week where he unloads his anger and pain against Abelardo de la Espriella, he has cried, but through the cartoon he tries to bring humour to the whole thing. He is a strong boy and I love him. I liked the detail of the shoes".

The cartoonist Nadim published this one and announced on his Twitter account that he will denounce the lawyer.

"I also have the firm intention of denouncing De La Espriella to the authorities for animal abuse. Confessed and admitted by himself".

It should be remembered that in 2019 Abelardo de la Espriella denounced Nadim for slander for this cartoon.

The case was filed just two months after the complaint, the matter was not even enough for a trial. You can read that story here.

Cartoon by Líder el Títere that claims that Matador's dismissal was politically motivated.

Cartoon by @Retador, an active parody Twitter account that mimics the style of Matador's cartoons. It was not the only cartoon critical of Retador.

Author unknown. A sausage modification of the original cartoon. A classic of image manipulation on the internet.

Cesar10N cartoon from April 4th.

But it's worth going back to the leanness of the story, which many seem to have forgotten along the way amidst all the skirmishing. Both the cartoonist and his wife spoke about that episode of violence, which both claim they had already overcome.

In this Los Danieles video you can listen to the cartoonist's account of the events from minute 5 onwards and the subsequent debate.

And in this other one, the declarations of Alejandra, his wife, on Radio Caracol.

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