CARACAS (Reuters) – In one drawing, Lady Justice is seen fleeing Venezuela, a sword in her right hand and a suitcase in the left.
In another, a crying boy tells his father he does not want school to start again. His anguished father, gazing at a list of expensive school supplies, answers: “Me neither, my son.”
In a third drawing, a Venezuelan is seen running toward an alien spaceship, begging for help.
The creator of these evocative political cartoons is Gabriel Moncada, a 13 year-old Venezuelan schoolboy.
The mature, bespectacled teen always enjoyed drawing animals and cars, but a few years ago began sketching the despair of his compatriots in the face of hyperinflation, mass emigration and shortages of food and medicine.
“Kids start to realize (what is happening), because they do not go to the movies as much, they realize they cannot stay in the street late, there is not as much food in the house or the same products,” said Moncada, sitting at the desk where he sketches.
“The drawings are a way to express myself. I think it is a creative, fun, and different way of showing the problems we experience daily,” he said.
His mother, 46-year old radio journalist Cecilia Gonzalez, started to publish her son’s cartoons on her Facebook page in late 2016. An impressed friend quickly asked to publish them on her online news site, TeLoCuentoNews, where every Friday for nearly two years they have appeared in a section called “This is how Gabo sees it,” referring to Moncada’s nickname.
Venezuela’s economic meltdown has forced almost 2 million people to flee since 2015, according to the United Nations migration and refugees agencies. President Nicolas Maduro disputes that tally, saying they have been exaggerated by political adversaries, and that those who have left are seeking to return.
Moncada’s mother said the family initially tried to shield him from the reality of the country’s decay, but gave up as the problems became increasingly evident.
“Nothing is like it used to be, and they realize that,” said Gonzalez. “You bring your kids to school and there are three or four children eating out of the garbage on the corner.”
The increasingly common sight of people eating from the trash emerged in one of Moncada’s sketches, which shows two rats standing below a pile of garbage as human hands dig through it.
One rat asks “Where’s the food?” The other responds “They have taken it from us.”
Additional reporting by Shaylim Valderrama and Vivian Sequera; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer and Brian Ellsworth; editing by Bill Berkrot