Brazilian cartoonist advocates Tunisia-style change in Arab world

The abrupt overthrow of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled the North African state with an iron fist for 24 years, has reverberated across the Atlantic to Brazil, where political cartoonist Carlos Latuff has released a set of caricatures calling for a Tunisia-style revolt in Egypt.

In his series, entitled “First Tunisia, Then Egypt,” the 42-year-old cartoonist presents images of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak getting the boot–literally. One cartoon shows a shoe marked “25 January”–the date set by Egyptian opposition groups for a major demonstration against police violations–flying in the direction of a fretting Mubarak. 

The reference to the celebrated shoe-attack on former US President George W. Bush by Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi at a Baghdad press conference serves to remind viewers of one of the most brazen acts of civilian defiance against a western leader in recent history.

Another cartoon depicts a statue of Mubarak, provocatively standing in the same pose as that taken up by late Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein on the statue that was felled following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, marking the end of Hussein’s 24-year rule. Another cartoon shows a line of falling dominos, with one bearing the Tunisian flag falling onto another bearing Mubarak’s likeness. 

In all of Latuff’s drawings, Mubarak’s face maintains a grim disposition animated only by what is going on around him. By contrast, Egyptian Minister of Interior Habib al-Adly nervously covers his ears as the torso of Khaled Saeed–celebrated victim of police brutality–juts out of a map of Egypt, screaming, “Wake up Egypt!” 

Saeed became a symbol of Egyptian activism after he was beaten to death by police for his alleged possession of an incriminating video of Alexandria police caught up in a drug deal. Since his death in mid-2010, Egyptian activists have rallied behind the banner, “We Are All Khaled Saeed.” One of Latuff’s cartoons with the same title features a defiant Khaled holding up a tiny, flailing, stone-faced Mubarak.

Latuff has long had an interest in the Middle East. His cartoons have appeared on a number of pro-Palestinian websites, and his entire portfolio reveals a general preoccupation with the issue of Arab liberty. With many fans in Arab activist circles, his drawings are frequently featured on their websites. He made a name for himself primarily with his political drawings on the Palestinian and Iraqi issues.

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