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Inspiration Nation

Posted by Tom Haines, Globe Travel Writer  December 3, 2007 03:48 PM

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zapata2.jpgWhat did Pedro Leon Zapata draw today?

The prominent Venezuelan artist has long sparred with President Hugo Chavez using a style at once profound and pithy.

Zapata's cartoons in El Nacional, which he's published six days a week for decades, have taken frequent aim at Chavez in recent years. His massive tile mural celebrating past leaders and common people on a wall alongside a Caracas highway -- placed so centrally in a city that pulses with art political and not -- has earned him quiet respect and raucous cheers. I think of a scene when I stood with Zapata in front of the mural several years ago.

In criticizing a president, Zapata often steps into the thick of debate. Yet he manages to step aside, too, keeping a view on the wider cultural, social, and political terrain.

Yesterday, Chavez suffered his first significant electoral defeat in nine years when voters rejected his attempts to extend his power.

Today, in El Nacional, Zapata offers the illustration above right:

(Translation, compliments of un amigo in Miami: "The Caracas traffic is like a sweetened pear compared to the traffic of influences.")

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