Ramón and the Prostitutional
Cartoon by Ramón. YA Newspaper. 29/01/1990
Continuing with the series“El humor en apuros” I rewind again, this time to the beginning of the 90s. It was the first months of Felipe González’s third term in office.
The cartoonist from Avila, Ramón Gutiérrez Díaz, who signs as Ramón, or R, sent his cartoon to the newspaper “YA” at the end of January 1990, in which a character changes the name of the Constitutional Court to“Prostitutional”.
On 23 February his cartoon was published again, but this time to illustrate the news that the Attorney General, at the request of the Minister of Justice, Enrique Múgica, had filed a criminal complaint against the cartoonist for:
“…the manifest intention to discredit and vilify“
If successful, the cartoonist could be sentenced to between six years and one day and twelve years in prison.
Newspaper YA 23/02/1990. Source Image: La Hemeroteca del Buitre
The daily newspaper YA also reports the opinions of different personalities, such as José María Aznar:
“The joke is the lawsuit. I find it absolutely regrettable that a lawsuit can be brought for a joke. It is inconceivable. Anyway, that’s the way we are. They are against everything.
And Federico Trillo:
“This is the last straw. Our group is going to study the possibility of suing the PSOE in Parliament for political responsibility for this aggression against the press”.
The editorial in Diario YA on 23 February 1990 was entitled “Un chiste de querella” (A joke of a lawsuit) and was signed by its editor, Miguel Larrea:
“The public prosecutor’s office has presented a criminal complaint to the judge against a joke by Ramón, published in this newspaper, in which it requests a prison sentence of between six years and twelve years for the cartoonist.
The reader will judge for himself the extent of the alleged insult to the Constitutional Court – the complaint detects “a manifest intention to discredit and vilify” – which is nothing more than a criticism, naturally, with limited graphic language, similar to others that have been formulated in writing, due to the obvious proximity of the high court to many of the government’s theses.
In any case, it is a serious matter in a democracy not to accept the humour of a cartoonist with sportsmanship. But it is already absurd to ask for a prison sentence of up to twelve years for him.
Those who have orchestrated this blatant campaign against the press have either lost their nerve or lost their judgement. And we don’t know which is worse for freedom of expression in the first place”.
Francisco Umbral devoted a few more letters to the matter in El Mundo on 27 February 1990:
“The cartoonist, by nature, has only one, unique and constant muse: Power. The press humourist has to be monographic, in a democracy (and preferably in a dictatorship). Now Ramón has been duped for a joke, with a decision that is somewhere between dictatorial and non-democratic.
(…) For Ramón, who is now on his way to the slammer, Power is twelve years in prison, which is what they are asking for a joke. Every day, more and more attached to Montesquieu, one distinguishes between legal power and executive power. The juridical power there with its juridicity, as Montesquieu told me while we were sniffing his Persian snuff.
(…)That’s what democracy is for, dammit, to put up with whatever they throw at it, especially if what they throw at it is Ramón’s childish drawing and mischievous intentions. (Read more)
In addition to the opinions of politicians and jurists, the opinions of cartoonists such as Alfredo, Mingote, Forges, Gallego y Rey, Peridis, Chumy Chúmez and Máximo were also read. Full source and opinions.
It is interesting to read some of them:
Máximo (El País) does not go into delimiting the border between disrespect and irony.
Peridis (El País), “The joke was unfortunate because it was not a prodigy of wit”
Alfredo (Diario 16), “Something strong, it took the word of the people”.
Gallego y Rey (El País), the lawsuit means that “the authorities are losing their nerve”. “Humour can have no limits”.
Mingote (ABC), “jokes are based on jokes, on humour, never on offence. I feel sorry for the Minister of Justice because I liked him and he has done something stupid”.
Chumy Chúmez (El Independiente) finds the joke “frivolous”. He also considers “the joke as excessive as the response, and the condemnation would be the last straw”.
He makes the following consideration: “In our work we have to be on target. Ramón has trivialised the situation. He thought he was wrong. The comedian has to attack through hard humour, but documented, not insulting. But Ramón only deserves a fight”.
Ramón takes the wind out of his sails and takes a different view:
“What worries me is that my daughter looks at me with strange eyes because she reads that her father is going to jail”.
He also stated that he was convinced that the complaint, although presented by Leopoldo Torres, had been drafted by his predecessor, Javier Moscoso, who was the Attorney General at the time the cartoon in question was published.
On 2 March 1990, the cartoonist made his obligatory tour of the Audiencia Nacional.
Photo by EFE in ABC. Ramón at the gates of the National Court after testifying
And Ramón survived the Prostitutional
On 5 March, Judge Baltasar Garzón dismissed the complaint
The press praised Garzón for his independence. As everyone knows, they would later tire of calling him a “star judge”.
On 8 March, Leopoldo Torres announced that he would appeal Garzón’s decision, but that was the end of the story.
The prosecuting counsel
It is a curious circumstance that the lawsuit against Ramón was filed by the Attorney General of the State, Leopoldo Torres, who 15 years earlier had been the defence lawyer of the same cartoonist in another trial for a joke published on the cover nº153 of Hermano Lobo on 12 April 1975.
Leopoldo Torres explained that “the circumstances were different”.
In the end, according to the prosecutor’s complaint, this issue was seized“for contempt of justice“, which was just one more daily occurrence in a long line of kidnappings, files, lawsuits, fines and various censorship that stuck the magazine Hermano Lobo.
Ramón, in response, was dispatched with this joke on the back cover of issue 154, a week later.
Hermano Lobo magazine archive
Newspaper archive ABC – La Vanguardia