Update: Claro Costa Rica posted a brief apology on Monday on its Facebook and Twitter accounts. Read it below, at the end of our story.
You’d think they would have learned their lesson by now.
Apparently telecom company Claro, owned by the richest man in the world – oops, make that the second-richest man in the world – still believes it can get away with circulating machista “jokes” and somehow it will be good for business.
Claro Costa Rica, a member of Mexican-owned América Móvil, sparked a Twitter cannonade Sunday night when it tweeted the following “joke”:
The response “No” by women comes from the Latin for “beg me a little more.”
— Federico Ramírez C. (@FedericoFrc) April 28, 2014
Within minutes, outraged followers of Claro’s Twitter account demanded an apology – including Costa Rican Education Minister Leonardo Garnier, who asked, “Could you please retract that grotesque tweet, and while you’re at it, apologize?”
@Claro_CostaRica ¿Podrían por favor retirar ese tuit tan grotesco y, de paso, pedir disculpas?
— Leonardo Garnier (@leogarnier) April 28, 2014
Costa Rica’s Supreme Court president, Zarela Villanueva, who also served as the president of the judicial branch’s commission on gender issues, can remind us all why this isn’t funny. According to Villanueva, Central American women aged 15-44 are at a greater risk of becoming victims of rape and spousal rape than of cancer, traffic accidents and malaria.
In the past five years, 46 Costa Rican women were murdered by their domestic partners, making domestic violence the biggest factor of femicide in the country, according to the judicial branch. Three out of five femicide victims in Costa Rica are attacked in their own homes.
Late Sunday night – three hours after the tasteless tweet – Claro Costa Rica finally issued an apology and deleted the post – along with all the hostile responses.
Fine. Big mistake. We’re sorry, let’s move on.
Except that Claro already had been through this kind of misogynist PR disaster before and seems not to have learned much from it.
In 2012, Claro Nicaragua was raked over the coals for a promotional contest that advertised free minutes for cellphone users who subscribed to a sexist text-messaging service.
“Know how to piss off women? Receive the best machista jokes on your CLARO!” Claro’s website crowed, according to Confidencial.
But you didn’t even have to subscribe, because the messages began arriving to random users. Such as texts like this one:
“How wonderful are our women. Why, because they cook and clean? No, because they never break no matter how much you abuse them.”
(The company also got into hot water for texting tips on aphrodisiacs to schoolchildren.)
In Nicaragua, 566 women were murdered from 2006-2012 by their spouses or former domestic partners, according to the Red de Mujeres contra la Violencia, which fought Claro’s stunt with a massive awareness campaign.
In the same period, half a million women filed criminal complaints claiming to be victims of violence, including rape. But according to Luz Marina Torres, the network’s coordinator, 62 percent of those cases were classified as “infractions,” not crimes.
At first Claro tried to wash its hands of the matter, claiming a third-party service had sent the texts, and Claro wasn’t responsible for the content. (Aside from the glaring insensitivity of that statement, Claro apparently overlooked the fact that the machista joke contest was advertised on its website.)
But Nicaragua’s network of feminists and women’s advocacy groups are some of the most organized in the region, and the company eventually capitulated. Working with the Red de Mujeres contra la Violencia, Claro agreed to sponsor a national awareness campaign aimed at reducing impunity and violence against women.
And now this.
In Costa Rica, the potential fallout from Sunday night’s cheap-tweet remains to be seen. But one thing is claro: Sexist PR is uncool.
Update, Monday, April 28, 2014: Claro Costa Rica on Monday issued a brief apology on its Facebook and Twitter accounts. But is it enough? And, given the above information, is this an “isolated incident,” as they claim? Post your thoughts in our comments section.
The statement reads:
Claro Costa rica offers a public apology to the entire national community for our circulation on Sunday, the 27th, on one of our social media networks.
We are profoundly pained and we regret this situation – which we consider totally out of place. This isolated incident does not reflect the philosophy nor the values of our organization, which are respect and equality.
As in any company, we are exposed to human error and we assume any responsibility of the actions of our staff.
We reaffirm our commitment to avoid the reoccurrence of situations like this.
Our sincerest apologies.
Nuestras sinceras disculpas. pic.twitter.com/cG9iLB8gxM
— Claro Costa Rica (@Claro_CostaRica) April 28, 2014