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Matador: Colombia’s most popular political cartoonist

Matador’s figures strike poses of bemused innocence as they get into mischief, including killing, kidnapping and stealing elections.

In the cartoon on the left, Matador links Uribe’s “addiction” to power with his support for a bill to outlaw the use of small amounts of recreational drugs. In the cartoon on the right, Matador links Uribe’s drive for a third term to his support for outlawing abortion even in the case of rape. (Courtesy of the artist)

BOGOTA, Colombia — When political cartoonist Matador draws Alvaro Uribe, the pious, right-wing Colombian president comes across as a middle-aged version of Milhouse, Bart Simpson’s nerdy friend.

Like the characters on "The Simpsons," Matador’s cartoon figures strike poses of bemused innocence as they get into mischief — which in Colombia often involves killing, kidnapping, stealing elections and engaging in acts of brazen political corruption.

Matador’s outrage drives his art.

“Politics is a swamp of shit,” he said as he drank a glass of Jack Daniel’s during a recent interview in Bogota. “Anyone who gets involved gets dirty.”

As a result, Matador — the pseudonym of 40-year-old Julio Cesar Gonzalez — has no shortage of subjects.

He usually draws more than 100 cartoons a month. His prolific output and finely honed sense of humor have turned him into Colombia’s most popular political cartoonist.

The past year has proved especially inspiring for Matador, whose cartoons appear on the editorial pages of El Tiempo, Colombia’s most influential newspaper.

Though Uribe remains hugely popular, he has been engulfed in scandals — ranging from the secret police spying on his political opponents, to million-dollar farm subsidies going to his political allies, to sweetheart land deals favoring his two sons.

But what really infuriates Matador is Uribe’s insistence on seeking a third term in the 2010 elections even though the Constitution currently prohibits presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms.

The pro-Uribe Congress recently approved an amendment to the Magna Carta to allow another term for the president but the measure has yet to receive the green light from the Constitutional Court.

“We have to sharpen our pens so we can serve as a counterbalance” to government power, said Matador, which means “killer” in Spanish.

In one of Matador’s most stinging cartoons, he linked Uribe’s “addiction” to power with the president’s support for a bill to outlaw the use of small amounts of marijuana and other recreational drugs — a measure known as the “personal dose” law.

In the panel titled “His own personal dose,” a glassy-eyed Uribe wears a goofy smile and holds an immense joint emblazoned with the word “re-election.”

For the cartoon, Matador was honored this year with the Simon Bolivar Prize, Colombia’s highest honor for journalists.