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The cartoons, entitled “Earthquake Italian-style”, show a balding man covered in blood with the caption “Penne in tomato sauce” and a woman with burns standing next to him labelled “Penne au gratin”. A drawing of victims’ feet sticking out from between the floors of a collapsed building is entitled “Lasagne”.
Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of Amatrice, the hardest-hit town where more than 230 bodies were found after the August 24 quake, has called the cartoon in Charlie Hebdo magazine “tasteless and embarrassing”.
Amatrice is famous for the pasta sauce amatriciana that carries its name.
The quake in the central Apennines Mountain region claimed nearly 300 lives, injured hundreds of people and left thousands of residents homeless when several towns and hamlets were devastated.
Pirozzi added on Friday that while he welcomes irony, it shouldn’t come at the expense of the dead.
‘I’m no longer Charlie Hebdo’
Italians led the outpouring on social media where many decried the cartoon echoeing Mayor Pirozzi’s sentiments.
Many Italians expressed solidarity with the French after the offices of Charlie Hebdo were targeted by Islamic extremists in January 2015, writing “Je suis Charlie Hebdo” on their social media channels.
The attack left eight of the magazine’s staff dead, along with four other bystanders. The attackers accused the journal of blasphemy for publishing drawings of the Prophet Mohammed that drew furious reactions from Muslims worldwide.
Overwhelming numbers from the international community responded by showing their support for the magazine, with solidarity marches across cities and rigorous debates on the right to freedom of expression.
Reactions to the latest cartoon, however, suggest the magazine may have finally gone too far.
On social media, many wrote: “I’m no longer Charlie Hebdo.”
The French embassy in Rome published a statement on its website and Twitter feed, saying the cartoon “absolutely does not represent” France’s position and is a “caricature by the press [and] the freely expressed opinions are those of the journalists”.
‘This isn’t satire, it’s garbage’
Giorgia Meloni, leader of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, said: “This isn’t satire; it’s garbage.”
Charlie Hebdo stirred up further controversy by publishing a follow-up earthquake cartoon on its Facebook page, referring to organised crime and its links to various Italian construction companies.
It cartoon shows someone half-buried in the rubble and reads: “Italians, it’s not Charlie Hebdo who has built your homes, it’s the Mafia!”