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Controversy as anti-Semitic joke backfires on Madrid culture minister

An anti-Semitic joke that a newly elected official from the Spanish Indignados movement had tweeted in 2011 has unleashed a storm of criticism this week. His group took over the Madrid city council.

Madrid's newly appointed leftist culture councilor has come under heavy criticism for posting a joke on Twitter four years ago about the

Holocaust

. Guillermo Zapata on Sunday apologized for the tweets, which he said were not intended to be anti-Semitic, but as comments on the cruelty that jokes sometimes can reflect.

Social media calls for Zapata's resignation

Zapata, who was chosen to become the capital city's cultural councilor, closed down his Twitter account and apologized for the damage that he had caused. But the social media hashtag #ZapataDemision (translation: Resign, Zapata) still went viral in Spain, just one day after activists from his movement

became mayors in Madrid and Barcelona

.

"Now some of those tweets, which were written within the context of a conversation on black humor, have been recovered with the goal of presenting them as though they represented my ideas - while in fact I do not defend them at all," Zapata wrote.

"I firmly condemn all forms of racism, and, of course, anti-Semitism. I believe the Jewish Holocaust teaches us a lesson that humanity must never forget, so that it is never repeated."

Zapata had made what were deemed deeply offensive jokes about the Holocaust and the gas chambers used by the Nazis during the World War II. He added that the tweets, which he had sent while working as a script writer and novelist in 2011, were deliberately taken out of context by his political opponents. In another controversial tweet, Zapata had also taken aim at a victim of an attack by

Basque separatist group ETA

.

The conservative former mayor of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, called via Twitter on her successor Manuela Carmena to demand Zapata's resignation, or else "she will become complicit with his savagery." Carmena, backed by the radical Podemos party, was sworn in Sunday to lead Madrid's first left-wing city government in 24 years and relies on coalition support from the Indignados to stay in power.

ss/bw (AFP, AP)

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