07 mayo 2008

About Vargas case.

I wish to bring to your attention what has become known as the 'Vargas case'. Briefly, in case you are not aware of it, last August a Costa Rican artist by the name of Guillermo Vargas (nicknamed Habacuc) participated in a show held in the Códice Gallery in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, and one of his displays was a dog.

He had previously paid a group of boys to chase and drag in a stray dog, emaciated and clearly in poor health, and this dog was tied to a wall in the gallery, and left with no food, water or veterinary care. It is reported that some of the spectators asked the artist to release the dog and he refused, but most just looked and walked on. Vargas named the dog Natividad in honour of a man called Natividad Canda, who some time before had been attempting to break into a business place, and was killed by the two rottweilers whose job it was to protect their master's property. The title of the 'piece' was written on the wall by shaping tiny circles of dry dog food to form the letters, just out of the dog's reach, and the local newspaper La Nación, reported that the dog died the next day of starvation.

One month later a panel of judges announced that they had selected Vargas to represent Costa Rica in the prestigious VI Central American Biennale, to be held in November in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.

Jaime Sancho, an independent animal activist living in Spain, started a petition for Vargas to be prohibited from representing his country in the Biennale, and the storm of protest began to gather momentum. A full two months after the original show closed, the gallery Director Juanita Bermudez, when she began to receive heavy public criticism for being Vargas' 'accomplice', issued a statement saying she had planned to keep the dog but it escaped. However, her story is hardly believable, and she has never requested that the newspaper print a retraction or any modification of its statement.

To date the petition has over 3.4 million signatories, with more being added every day, and Vargas has been called, by Radio Caracol in Colombia, who conducted an interview with him, the 'most hated artist in the world'. During that interview he plainly says 'el perro murió en la obra' – the dog died while on show, and all the evidence confirms his death, although the only photographs in existence are those taken in the gallery when he was still alive. However, irrespective of whether the dog died, Vargas is plainly guilty of horrific abuse to an innocent creature, thereby breaching Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights.

The organizers of the Biennale, Mujeres en el Arte (Women in Art), have stated that artists will not be permitted to use animals in the coming show, and Vargas will not be repeating his performance. Both PETA and WSPA have found this satisfactory, and have taken no further action.

However, we feel that they have missed the essential point, and in the process are condoning the setting of a dangerous precedent. The petition to bar Vargas from being Costa Rica's official representative to the Biennale is an effort to save countless animals who stand to be horribly abused in public if he is allowed to proceed, in that it would give carte blanche to any artist to commit any atrocity in public on an animal, just so long as he/she promises not to repeat it.

In addition, since Vargas was not charged with a crime in the first instance, supposedly due to weakness in the legislation on animal cruelty in Nicaragua, over three million people feel that the minimum acceptable punishment for him would be for him to be stripped of the "prize" of representing his country. It would also be a very firm condemnation of animal cruelty.

Please find below some links for your further information

Yours sincerely,
Cindi Scholefield

Article 4th October 2007 in the La Nación newspaper

Mujeres en el Arte - Women in Art

Ronald Zurcher is Vargas' protector and sponsor, a very prestigious Costa Rican architect. This is his address:

Jaime's blog (full of information, mostly in Spanish, but can be translated, if you wish)


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