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Cartoon of Mexican flag draws criticism

By Rafael Romo, CNN
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Mexican flag cartoon controversy
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cartoon depicts eagle in Mexican flag dead in a pool of blood
  • American Daryl Cagle created the controversial cartoon
  • Many Mexicans think it is mocking their country, which is beset by violence

Mexico City, Mexico (CNN) -- An American's cartoon showing the eagle in the Mexican flag dead in a pool of blood is drawing criticism.

The sketch created by political cartoonist Daryl Cagle depicts the green, white, and red Mexican flag with a bullet-riddled eagle sprawled in the center of the emblem. Mexico's coat of arms includes the eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus, devouring a snake.

Cagle says he created the cartoon to depict the violence rampant in parts of Mexico.

"Editorial cartoonists look for readily recognizable metaphors and that's an obvious one for Mexico," says Cagle.

More than 28,000 people have died in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón declared war on drug cartels after taking office in December 2006.

But the cartoon has offended many Mexicans who feel their national symbol is off limits, especially to foreign cartoonists.

Many readers reacted angrily when the cartoon was displayed on the front page of newspapers.

"It is a shame that a patriotic symbol like our flag, which is so beautiful to me, can be mocked by a stupid cartoonist," wrote a reader to the Mexico City newspaper El Universal. "I think there are many other ways to graphically protest what's happening in our country."

Ricardo Alday, a spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, said that "as any democratic society, Mexico respects and defends freedom of speech and freedom of expression, in any way it's manifested. Regarding the case of Mr. Cagle's cartoon, we differ on the use he makes of the Mexican flag and the message it conveys."

Mexican cartoonist Paco Calderón reprinted Cagle's cartoon on the Reforma newspaper, adding his own comment.

"I'm not offended by the cartoon. I'm offended by reality and the huarache-wearing Taliban members," he said. Huarache is a type of a Mexican sandal and Calderón was using the reference to talk about members of the seven drug cartels terrorizing Mexico.

Even President Felipe Calderón admits the situation in his country is dire.

"As we all know, we face unscrupulous criminals with enormous economic capacity and great firepower," said the president in his fourth state-of-the-nation speech Thursday. "I am fully aware that in the past year the problem of violence has risen."

Cagle admits he's somewhat surprised by the reaction to his cartoon. "This one has been a little unusual in that it has been splashed all over the press in Mexico and I've been hearing quite a lot about it," he says.

Cagle, who is the editorial cartoonist for msnbc.com, says his work appears in 850 subscribing newspapers around the world.

"All I was looking to here is make a statement that the violent in Mexico is terrible and make it visually compelling."

In 2008, Mexican pop sensation Paulina Rubio was fined more than $4,000 after posing nude wrapped in the flag for Cosmpolitan, a Spanish magazine.

 
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