With a megawatt smile and carefully messy hair worthy of a former boy-band star, pop sensation Ricky Martin teamed up with President Oscar Arias Tuesday to announce new efforts in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation.
Martin descended on – and then ascended from, via helicopter – Casa Presidencial for a meeting with Arias and then a press conference where he launched a new print and broadcast ad campaign. In the TV ads, which began airing this week, the Puerto Rican-born singer urges the victims of exploitation to call 911 and get help.
The campaign, sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the International Organization for Migrants and Costa Rica’s Child Welfare Office (PANI), targets the trata de personas, defined as tricking adults or children to travel far from their homes and work against their will, often becoming the victims of sexual exploitation.
Development bank president Luis Alberto Moreno said during a video recording played at the press conference that an estimated 2 million people become the victims of such exploitation each year. Martin explained that because human trafficking is conducted illicitly, it’s extremely difficult to obtain exact figures regarding its proliferation.
The 911 program, called “Llama y Vive” (“Call and Live”), has been very successful in Peru, Nicaragua and Ecuador, the countries where it has already been implemented, Moreno said. He added that El Salvador will become a part of the program soon and Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico are targeted next.
In Peru, the service has received 1,000 calls on average per month, resulting in 100 formal complaints to police and the rescue of several victims, according to Moreno.
The program began in 2006 as an initiative of the Ricky Martin Foundation, a nonprofit organization the singer founded seven years ago to advocate for the well being of children internationally.
“Ticos…want to end this bad industry,” said the performer of hits such as “Livin’ la Vida Loca.” “I love being a part of that.”
Martin arrived in Costa Rica Monday to perform a concert that night at Saprissa Stadium, north of San José, and is expected to spend some time vacationing here before returning home.
For more on the Ricky Martin Foundation, visit www.rickymartinfoundation.org.