Quito, Ecuador-based designer and illustrator Kiko Rodriguez has very clear opinion of the legacy left by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: “He left power the way most dictators leave it, by dying,” says Rodriguez. It was Chavez’s efforts to stamp out political opponents and critical media that offended Rodriguez and led him to create the unflattering caricature of Chavez that was named one of the winners of the first annual Latin American Ilustración competition.
“My caricature refers to the injustice of his rule, showing the fight between a wild, powerful gorilla—Chavez and his state apparatus—and a delicate wounded bird representing mass media,” he says. The blue feather in the image, he notes, is an allusion to the iconic Twitter logo. “The caricature has strong and aggressive style. It is a response of the same intensity with which I believe Chavez and his government treated their opponents,” Rodriguez says.
The title of the work, “Miko Mandante,” is a caustic as the caricature itself. “Miko Mandante is one of the derogatory terms that Chavez was called by his opponents,” explains Rodriguez. “Its translation is something like ‘monkey leader.’ The origin of the phrase is a wordplay combination of ‘Mi Comandante’ (‘my commander’) and ‘miko,’ which means ape.”
The caricature, notes Rodriguez, was meant to provoke, and it did so. “It is very offensive to Chavez’s followers,” he says—particularly in the aftermath of Chavez’s death from cancer in March.
Born in Cuba, Rodriguez moved to Ecuador in 2000, where he established himself as a freelance artist and graphic designer doing advertising and editorial work. He also founded Ilustres Ilustradores, an event focusing on illustration with conferences, contests, and exhibitions. He is currently working on a digital project, creating a series of iPad publications featuring his caricature work along with tutorials and “making of” videos. “In my work as a designer I have increasingly included illustration as a graphic resource or graphic complement,” he says. “I have also dedicated a very special effort, within the illustration work, to caricatures.”
Creating his caricature of Chavez was a personal act, not an editorial commission. “I was driven by an internal sense of duty,” he says. “I think every communicator must use his or her skills to try to contribute positively to the world. When there is injustice and oppression, not doing or saying anything makes you accomplice to what is happening.”
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