Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was just doing what any good politician does – posing for the camera with his constituents. Unfortunately for him, nobody checked the t-shirt a young boy was wearing before the camera clicked.
Correa, seen in a button-up, shirtsleeve shirt and khaki shorts, is seen with his arm around a young boy. But the boy's shirt reads "I'm with Stupid" and has an arrow putting directly at the country's president.
The embarrassment for the mercurial Correa didn't end there, however, as the photo quickly went viral with the hashtag #IAmWithStupidMashi" quickly became one of Ecuador's top trends. Correa uses the Twitter handle @MashiRafael.
"Spy kid from CIA tries to destabilize government, this would make a great headline," one person commented on Twitter, according to the BBC.
Niño agente de la CIA intenta destabilizar al gobierno. Sería un buen titular para Andes. #IAmWithStupidMashi
— LongoColorDeLaTierra (@Alfresarpo) April 8, 2015
Another tweet showed a cover of an old MAD magazine with a drawing of boy wearing an "I'm with Stupid" shirt standing next to former U.S. President George W. Bush juxtaposed to the photo with Correa and the boy. The text that accompanied the tweet said "Because in Ecuador we make [fiction] a reality."
— Fernando San Lucas (@capiroparanoico) April 8, 2015
The comments about Correa were particularly harsh given his crackdown on press rights and free speech in recent years. In 2013, Ecuador passed a restrictive media law that created official media overseers, imposes sanctions for smearing "people's good name" and limiting private media to one third of radio and TV licenses.
The measures are similar to ones enacted in Venezuela under the late President Hugo Chávez, a Correa ally. Like Chavez and his heirs, Correa has used loyal institutions including the courts to try to squelch opposition voices.
Correa, an economist who identifies himself as a follower of 21st century socialism, is pushing a package of constitutional changes that would end term limits for all elected officials. Passage is considered likely because his Alianza Pais party holds 100 of the National Assembly's 137 seats.
Correa, who was first elected in 2006 and would have to leave office in 2017 without the change, has said he would seek another term only if he felt his "revolution" was threatened. He is popular among Ecuadorians for his government's generous social spending but is widely criticized for intolerance of dissent.
Despite the online jesting, the president did have his supporters – albeit much smaller than those mocking him. Later on Wednesday, the hashtag #WeAreWithYouMashi started trending on Twitter in Ecuador.
As for the boy in the photo, his mother posted a message on a satirical Ecuadorian Facebook page asking for the photo to be taken down and saying that the child had meant no offense as he didn't speak English.
Correa, who earned his master's and doctoral degree from the University of Illinois, however, does speak English.