Latin America

Costa Rica’s unlikely hero against sexual harassment on the streets

22-year-old who posted video of man filming beneath woman’s skirt now fighting for his life

A woman walks quickly along one of Costa Rica’s busiest boulevards while being followed by a man with a cellphone trying to film underneath her skirt.

The woman has no idea what is going on, but not too far away another man records the entire incident on his own cellphone. As soon as he alerts the victim and confronts the man who was filming, the latter briskly walks away, jumping into the first taxi he can find. He is gone in a matter of seconds.

Video: The recording of the incident uploaded by Gerardo Cruz Barquero (in Spanish).

The entire event could have been chalked up as another example of the sexual harassment that women have to face on a daily basis if the second man – 22-year-old Gerardo Cruz Barquero, a baker by trade – had not decided to post his video on the social networks.

Since the video went viral and was picked up by the national media, everyone has been able to see the alleged harasser’s face.

But the matter did not stop there.

On Wednesday night, two unknown men stabbed the young baker near his home in San Sebastián, outside the capital San José. Initially, police believed that the attack may have been a robbery attempt, but none of Cruz Barquero’s personal belongings were taken.

Even though they did not have enough evidence to come up with a motive, authorities have not ruled out that the attack was in retaliation for the video he uploaded on the social networks.

Authorities have not ruled out that the stabbing was in retaliation for the video he uploaded

No one has yet been charged over the incident.

Nevertheless, others are convinced that the stabbing of Cruz Barquero was the result of his campaign to denounce the alleged harasser.

Cruz Barquero was taken to the Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia hospital where doctors performed open-heart surgery. He has been listed in critical condition.

Since the stabbing, hundreds of people have come out in his defense, holding public demonstrations and rallies. The baker has even received support from the government and the judiciary.

“It is not right in a democracy for there to be co-existence where women are not respected on the streets,” said Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís.

Cruz Barquero – who is the father of a five-year-old girl and is also expecting another baby with his partner – has become a national hero and many are praying that he will not end up a martyr as he battles for his life.

According to family members, Cruz Barquero had himself feared that someone would seek retaliation against him for what he did.

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While his picture has been posted across the social networks, the face of the man who was trying to record up the woman’s skirt has not been seen.

But he has been identified as a Finance Ministry employee who has taken leave from his job and may be subjected to a disciplinary hearing.

Authorities said the woman had not filed a formal complaint. In Costa Rica, more than 5,000 reports of sexual harassment in the streets are filed every year, according to official statistics.

Those convicted can receive fines of up to half of their monthly salaries.

At the same time there is also evidence to demonstrate that Cruz Barquero may have himself committed an invasion of privacy offense by posting the man’s actions on the internet.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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