It all started in early December when a few Colombian residents in Madrid expressed their dislike of a large sign unfurled in the Spanish capital’s iconic Sol Square to advertise the Netflix series Narcos. The giant poster made its debut on December 2, or the 23th anniversary of the death of the famous drug lord Pablo Escobar, the central figure in the popular television show which recounts his life history.
On the billboard is a picture of Wagner Moura, the actor who plays Escobar, and the pun-laden slogan: “Oh, blanca Navidad” (Oh, White Christmas, a reference to cocaine).
On Tuesday, the government of Colombia joined the protests, with the country’s Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín asking Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena to take down the poster.
Holguín, who is traveling with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos – currently on a European tour after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in forging a peace deal with the guerilla group FARC – brought up the ad at a press conference in Madrid.
Pablo Escobar was a murderer who under no circumstances should be praised as a hero Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos
The minister said that Colombian Ambassador Alberto Furmanski has been in touch with Madrid authorities about taking down the sign because of the negative image it portrays about the Latin American nation.
“The efforts that Colombia made to turn the page on the Medellín cartel, on drugs, [it] is something that we are over now, and the vision that the world has of Colombia now is different, but preconceived notions persist, and if we add this type of advertising, then great damage is done to our country,” she said.
Juan Manuel Santos himself conveyed the same message in a radio interview on Onda Cero. Although he described the show as “very good,” he stressed that “Pablo Escobar was a murderer who under no circumstances and no point of view should be praised as a hero.”
Colombian Culture Minister Mariana Garcés has also been in touch with Netflix asking for the poster to be removed. The streaming content company has not made any public statements about the controversy.
The billboard made its debut on the 23rd anniversary of Pablo Escobar's death
Meanwhile, Madrid City Hall has said it is investigating whether the banner is legal.
Colombians in Madrid have started an online petition to have the ad taken down because “it is demeaning for Netflix to hang a sign for the Narcos series in Madrid’s most emblematic spot, where thousands of people from all over the world walk by every day.” Over a thousand people had signed the petition by Thursday morning.
English version by Susana Urra.