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Costa Rican Stabbed After Busting a Man Filming up a Woman's Skirt Hailed as a 'Hero'

Gerardo Cruz still unconscious as supporters including US ambassador leave messages of support at hospital, and women's groups plan march for Sunday.
October 13, 2015, 6:25pm
Capture d'écran via YouTube

A young man who was attacked after posting a YouTube video exhibiting another man filming up a woman's skirt has become a Costa Rican symbol of both anti-sexist action, and its dangers.

"Gerardo has become a national hero of anti-machismo," Costa Rica's President Luis Guillermo Solís told local reporters after Gerardo Cruz was stabbed in the chest and abdomen last week. "Many are pleading that he remains a hero and does not become a martyr."

Cruz remained unconscious in hospital on Tuesday. Though the 22-year-old bakery worker was taken off life-support at the weekend, his wife told local media that doctors are worried about brain damage sustained during a heart attack on the operating table.

It all began when Cruz was walking along a street in the Costa Rican capital San José at the beginning of the month and noticed a man pointing his mobile phone camera up the skirt of a woman walking in front of him.

Cruz first filmed in silence and then alerted the woman to what was going on. The man he had outed then walked quickly away and got into a taxi, with Cruz close behind filming and loudly lamenting the absence of a police officer.

The video quickly became a YouTube sensation in Costa Rica, with local media identifying the man featured as an finance ministry employee.

Cruz gave an interview to Costa Rican TV last Wednesday as a debate grew over whether he had violated the man's privacy by posting the video on social media.

"I did what I had to do in that moment," Cruz said. Though he admitted to being concerned about possible prosecution he added, "I would do it again because I have a mother, a daughter and sisters, and they deserve respect."

Hours later Cruz was rushed to hospital with potentially fatal stab wounds. While there is no evidence directly linking the attack to the video, the attacker did not rob Cruz before fleeing the crime scene.

Well wishers soon began turning up to the hospital to show support for Cruz and his family. A plea for type O negative blood prompted an offer of free rides for donors from Uber.

Visitors included the first division Guerreros del Sur soccer team. The players descended from their tour bus carrying flowers for Cruz's family. Many others have left messages of solidarity on the walls, including US Ambassador Stafford Fitzgerald Haney.

"I have a wife, three daughters, and a mother," the ambassador tweeted later. "They all have the right to walk freely, without fear."

A group calling itself Gracias Gerardo, or Thanks Gerardo is organizing a march on Sunday that should provide the first real gauge of the strength of public indignation over the incident. Women's activists say it could also help spark a broader movement to deal with the kind of pervasive sexism they have long been denouncing.

"The march is very important," Tatiana Ballestero, of the San José-based Feminist Center of Information and Action, told VICE News. "We have to try and make sure that what this young man did, and what happened to him, is something that starts to bring real change."

Ballestero said that the case had caused such an impact because Latin American men so rarely question the sexism that pervades the region.

"He was a very brave young man who broke the usual pact by which men cover up for each other, and he is in hospital because that also has consequences," she said. "But it is also important to remember that there are also many brave women who have stood up to machismo and suffered for it, and nobody pays attention to them."

Related: Male Machismo Is Still Alive and Well in Bolivia, Despite Evo Morales' Claims to Combat Violence Against Women

Follow Jo Tuckman on Twitter: @jotuckman