Corruption scandals involving politicians are not unusual in any country, but what really matters is how a government deals with the scandals, according to Brazilian political cartoonist Carlos Latuff.
In an e-mail interview with Today’s Zaman, Latuff, who has drawn cartoons on a major corruption scandal in Turkey that came into the spotlight on Dec. 17, when several businessmen close to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the sons of four ministers were detained, said: “Corruption scandals involving politicians aren’t a big surprise. Even countries known for austerity, [such] as Japan, have corrupt politicians. The point is to know how the government will deal with this scandal. Whether it will investigate and punish those responsible, or simply try to hide it from the public, or even attack the media that exposed it. [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan chose the second option, which is not a surprise either, judging by his heavy-handed way of ruling Turkey.” Indeed, the Turkish government removed the prosecutors conducting the major corruption investigation and reappointed others in their stead.
Turkish newspapers have published Latuff’s cartoons about Turkey, which he says explore “the contradictions of Prime Minister Erdoğan.” He recalled that Erdoğan put on a show in 2010, when an aid flotilla led by the Turkish Mavi Marmara passenger ship was attacked by Israeli troops, resulting in the deaths of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American. Similarly, he recalled the time when Erdoğan walked out of the 2009 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. “In Davos, he [started] a harsh discussion with his friend Shimon Peres, demanded an apology from [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu [over the Mavi Marmara incident] and said that [he] would lead a military convoy to Gaza himself. Just a spectacle for his audience, I mean, voters. Erdoğan wasn’t serious of course, otherwise he would have cut ties with Israel. I mean, not [by canceling] an unimportant military agreement, but cutting diplomatic ties! But, Turkey is a good ally of both the United States and Israel. We can’t forget how Mossad helped the Turkish government hunt down Kurdish leader [Abdullah] Öcalan. Turkey is also playing an important role for Washington and the European Union [by] backing the so-called ‘rebels’ in Syria.”
He said another contradiction is Erdoğan’s insistence that Turkey is a democracy despite the large number of journalists in prison and brutal police crackdown on anti-government protesters doing the Gezi Park events of last year, as well as the “daily harassment” of Kurds. “And don’t forget Erdoğan’s useless censorship of Twitter [and YouTube],” he said. Judging by a visit to İstanbul in 2010 and the country’s F-Type prisons, Latuff said, “Turkey is a classic police state.”
He said he was glad that activists in Turkey had used his cartoons for support. “I am very glad to support activists with art. If I was in Turkey, I would support them [by] participating in demonstrations, but since I am here in Brazil, drawing cartoons about Erdoğan is my way of saying ‘comrades, I am with you’.”
Latuff was born in 1968 in Rio de Janeiro, and he loves to draw. He told Today’s Zaman that he has been drawing since he was a little boy but started his career as a political cartoonist in 1990, working for left-wing trade union publications.