21 marzo 2008

WSPA, a "surprising" email

One of my collaborators has sent me this letter from Claudia Rocío Medina, Manager of the WSPA office. It is addressed to Pilar.


Good Day:

Following up on the matter of Guillermo Vargas exhibiting in Honduras, I wish to let you know that our Costa Rica Office made direct contact with the Minister of Art and Culture, who confirmed that Mr. Vargas will be participating in the Biennale, and exhibiting something different to what he presented in Nicaragua, which means that he will not be using an animal this time, and therefore the Ministry will not prohibit his participation.

Yours truly,

Biol, Esp. MSc*
Office Manager

World Society for the Protection of Animals"

I call on Mrs. Rocío, if the text is not correct, to deny it.

The email is loaded. Without going thoroughly into it, and given that 400,000 new signatures have been affixed to the petition by people who may not know the whole story, I would just recall the following:

1 - On 16th October I read in the "La Nación" Costa Rican newspaper that an artist had put a sick and starving dog to die of hunger, tied to the walls of the Códice Gallery in Managua (Nicaragua). The dog was displayed as part of his "art", in direct contravention of international animal rights contained in the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF ANIMAL RIGHTS. If this had occurred in another part of the world Mr. Vargas would now be in prison, but in Costa Rica he was rewarded.

2 - In September 2007 in the Biennale of Costa Rican Art (Bienarte) the judges, consisting of Ana Sokoloff (Colombia), Oliver Debroise (México) and Rodolfo Kronfle Chambers (Ecuador), chose Vargas as one of the six artists to represent his country in the Central American Biennale Honduras 2008. This in spite of the fact that Mr. Vargas, one month previously, had ill-treated a living being in order to present his "work of art".

3 - The case of the cat-eater: WSPA and ANPA both brought matters to court. The events happened in July of 2007. WSPA made a report to the Public Prosecutor in Cañas, Guanacaste, and on 27th July ANPA made a formal complaint to the Court of Infringements in Cañas, Guanacaste against Douglas Barahona, who had been introduced to the public in the "Extra" newspaper as the 'cat-eater',

4 - Dr. Oscar Arias, VIP animal activist. On 5th March last, WSPA reserved for Dr. Oscar Rafael de Jesús Arias Sánchez, President of Costa Rica, the opportunity to be the millionth signatory to the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare, an international agreement which for the first time would unite the various governments in the recognition of the fact that animals are important, but dealing only with the necessities of animals from a scientific point of view without recognizing any of their legal rights, such as the right to life.

5 - Without being a formal organization, by simply exposing the facts of the case, stimulating people's consciences, demanding justice for a creature who has been ill-treated, and the assurance that it will not occur again, at this time more than 957,549 people are calling for Guillermo Vargas to be excluded from the Central American Biennale Honduras 2008, as the minimum acceptable penance for the acts he committed against a living being.

And in spite of these nearly ONE MILLION signatures, WSPA "surprises" us with Mrs. Rocío's email. That the world association for the protection of animals should accept the abuser Vargas' participation in the Biennale, with a work of art different to that presented in Nicaragua, which means that this time he will not use an animal, is "surprising".

It is surprising because this association is supposed to protect, defend and promote animal welfare. The logical reaction of WSPA would have been to immediately press charges, following the abuse perpetrated by a Costa Rican citizen on a sick and starving dog. Not only have they not done that, but they are in agreement that as long as he does not use another animal in another work of art, he should go unpunished.

The haughty Mr. Vargas has not begged for forgiveness, nor has he tried to excuse himself in any way, but in spite of this, in the email received, the Minister of Art and Culture of Costa Rica and Mrs. Rocío as the WSPA representative, forgive him. If WSPA had brought charges, would she still have pardoned him?

It must be surprising that it did not occur to the Minister of Art and Culture of Costa Rica, and to Mrs. Rocío, that Vargas dedicated himself, a few days before the opening of the Central American Biennale, to pursuing a sick and starving dog through the streets of Honduras, catching him and tying him to the walls of the gallery to wait for him to die of hunger – or to escape right in front of the nose of the guard on duty. Does the Minister really think this is feasible, or is it an attempt to find a way out of a situation they don't know how to resolve, a situation so unprecedented and significant, that it would put the authorities of Costa Rica, Honduras and all the patrons in a very uncomfortable situation, depending on what decision is reached.

Besides, WSPA uses different yardsticks for different cases, as for example: Mr. Douglas Barahona, also a Costa Rican citizen, the "cat-eater" – he is a poor man, possibly ill, possibly a drug addict, who possibly gave the interview to get some money. Make no mistake, I am not defending his actions. But WSPA brought a court action against him in Cañas, Guanacaste. To date, there is no information available as to whether justice has been served - more than likely not.

Mr. Guillermo Vargas, on the other hand, is an "artist" who enjoys the support of the well-known architect Ronald Zürcher, President of the Association of Art Impresarios, of the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, and now we know that he is also backed by the Minister of Art and Culture of Costa Rica. With all that going for him, it must be uncomfortable for WSPA to present any kind of report about Vargas or to participate in the campaign to exclude him from the Biennale. And it shouldn't surprise us that neither will they encourage the recently-honoured MILLIONTH animal activist to refuse to allow the abuser Vargas to represent Costa Rica this coming November.

In the only press release so far from WSPA, they say "At the same time, we believe that this should be an opportunity to encourage all those who have reacted to this act with indignation, to take steps to support the welfare and protection of animals, not only by reporting cruelty cases, but by endorsing the work of the many national and international organizations which labour on a daily basis to improve living conditions for the animals in our country and in the whole world".

I say to you, WSPA officials, that ONE MILLION people are now taking action for the welfare and protection of animals, demanding that those who violate the rights of animals should be called to account. You yourselves have said, in reference to Vargas ". . . that cruelty to animals, in whatever form and for whatever purpose, is in itself a repugnant act, punishable by the Criminal Code of Costa Rica, as well as by the laws of many other countries". Why, then, do you not press charges against Vargas? Because of his connections?

No matter how many times it is repeated, there will still be people like the Minister of Art and Culture, and Mrs. Rocío, who don't understand this: we who care about animals do not accept ill-treatment inflicted on living beings, in any form, or in any name. Those who do not meet these standards should be charged, to the full extent of the relevant laws of each country, and if there are no such laws, those established by the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights. Mr. Guillermo Vargas cannot and should not go unpunished – otherwise the door will be flung wide open for any other atrocity to be committed in the name of art.

I suppose that for those who at some point have questioned the veracity of the acts, or who have wondered whether it is just an urban legend, or even that the photos of the dog were a clever photographic montage, the words of the Minister of Art and Culture of Costa Rica, and always according to Mrs. Rocío, member of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), that "he will be participating in the Biennale, and exhibiting something different to what he presented in Nicaragua, which means that he will not be using an animal this time, and therefore the Ministry will not prohibit his participation" will not leave them in any doubt whatsoever that Guillermo Vargas DID ABUSE a dog in Nicaragua, and far from being punished for it, he is being rewarded.

Jaime Sancho

1 comentario:

  1. Keep up the good and valuable work on exposing the hypocrisy that one can find even in animal welfare organizations, but much more so in the areas of art and culture. It is tragic that the word "art" has become a mask or an excuse for publicity seekers and their sycophants. Vargas' pathetic and cruel action shows that he does not have the skills to create anything worthwhile.


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