Since April 5, 2020, multiple Facebook users have sent death threats to Bolivian cartoonist Abel Bellido Córdoba, he told CPJ in a phone interview.
Bellido told CPJ that the threats were in response to cartoons published on his professional Facebook page and in the independent La Paz daily Página Siete, where he has worked as a cartoonist for the past decade under the pen name “Abecor.”
The cartoons, published on April 5 and 18, depicted recent political controversies and anti-drug operations in the Chapare, a jungle region in central Bolivia that, according to news reports, produces much of the country’s cocaine.
In a screenshot Bellido shared with CPJ, a Facebook user named Francisco Villa commented on one of the cartoons, saying, “The day you will meet your maker is getting closer.”
Another comment from a user named Katy Carla included a photo of Bellido and a caption that said: “If this man disappears, it will not be because of magic.”
Bellido said he received about half a dozen such threats in response to the two cartoons.
He said he showed the threatening messages to Página Siete editor Isabel Mercado who, on April 28, sent a letter to Interior Minister Arturo Murillo. In the letter, she demanded security guarantees so Bellido could safely carry out his work.
Bellido told CPJ yesterday that he plans to report the threats to the police, and said that there was no official reaction to the letter. CPJ’s calls to the Interior Ministry were not returned.
“It’s worrisome because the government doesn’t do anything,” Bellido told CPJ.
In its 2015 special report, “Drawing the Line,” CPJ found that cartoonists are often targeted for harassment because their satirical portraits, whether backhanded or overt, communicate complex political ideas in a form that is accessible and resonates with mass audiences.