CARACAS –A Venezuelan mayor was arrested Thursday on hate crime charges following an outcry after he described a mural painted by autistic children as “horrific.”
Mr Ernesto Paraqueima, mayor of the eastern city of El Tigre, was arrested for promotion and incitement of hatred, Attorney General Tarek William Saab said in a statement.
Mr Paraqueima, who is not allied to the ruling party of President Nicolas Maduro nor the opposition, also stands accused of violating Venezuelan child protection and anti-discrimination laws.
He caused outrage by slagging off a mural painted on a city wall: a landscape of mountains with a blue sky, a rainbow and doves.
“Who painted that? Who painted that really horrific (thing)? I’m told it was those people of the Asperger children. Who painted it? The children? What did they paint it with? Their feet? What a horrible, awful thing,” he said in an audio clip that went viral on social media, using an outdated term related to autism.
Prosecutor Saab met with a parliamentary commission, its members mainly loyal to Mr Maduro, who asked him to detain and investigate Mr Paraqueima.
Before his arrest, the mayor said elements of the audio were taken out of context to put him in a bad light.
“I never intended to offend children with special conditions,” he said. “I’ve always said they’re super smart people.”
Mr Paraqueima is no stranger to controversy, having been accused in the past of making derogatory statements about women and Indigenous people. AFP