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The Controversial Tweet That Led a Costa Rican Official to Resign

Captura de imagen del polémico tuit de Julia Ardón.

“We're not going to say anything to those stuck-up, arrogant men in their cassocks, lace and cone-shaped hats?” Screenshot of Julia Ardón's controversial tweet.

“We're not going to say anything to those stuck-up, arrogant men in their cassocks, lace and cone-shaped hats?” That was one of the tweets that Julia Ardón, a social media aide for the president of Costa Rica, published on her personal Twitter account that kicked up anger in the majority Catholic country, eventually ending in her resignation.

Ardón published a series of tweets against the Catholic Church's stance against in vitro fertilization (IVF), a technique in which an egg is fertilized outside the womb when a couple cannot conceive. The practice continues to be banned in Costa Rica, despite a 2012 ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights striking down the decade-long prohibition as a violation of the reproductive freedom of infertile couples.

The country has yet to legalize IVF, but the matter has come under debate in recent months as lawmakers work to conform to the court's ruling. The Catholic Church has spoken out against potential legalization.

Ardón tweeted on Good Friday that during Holy Week, there had been a “common discourse against IVF” in Catholic churches. “What kind of outrage do we want to turn this country into? What's happening to everyone? We're going to become the stupid ones?” she wrote. Her string of comments were published just after San José archbishop José Rafael Quirós had discussed IVF and abortion (the Catholic Church considers IVF to be a form of abortion) during a religious procession:

“Hoy cuando en lugar de ayudar a estas madres, de brindarles lo necesario para que pueden cumplir su misión, pues hay veces que se les quita todo apoyo y la solución que se les da es la salida fácil, de quitarle la vida a su hijo. La virgen madre es imagen de la madre que lucha y está con su hijo hasta el final, aunque su vida corra peligro”, dijo el arzobispo.

“Today, when instead of helping these mothers, providing them with what they need to be able to fulfill their mission, there are times when all support is taken away from them, and the solution that they are given is taking the easy way out, taking away the life of their child. The Virgin Mary is the image of the mother who fights and stays with her child until the end, even if her life is in danger,” the archbishop said.

Her words sparked uproar. The next day, she told a news outlet that she was considering quitting her post “to be able to say what she thinks” and had “temporarily suspended” her Twitter account due to the attacks she was receiving. That didn't stop users from pushing back against her comments on that very social network:

So Julia Ardon closed her Twitter account. Incredible level of mediocrity from a community manager who can't resist a crisis.

I think Julia Ardon has achieved the unthinkable for a community manager, to have more importance than the account she manages, the Costa Rican president's.

Julia Ardon has compared herself with diverse distinguished historic figures, it won't be surprising that tomorrow she might be resurrected!

And which embassy will receive Julia Ardon?

Julia Ardón is very irrelevant, stop paying so much attention to her.

Great, thanks Julia Ardón. Of course by blocking people (from Twitter) all communication problems are solved.

It's regrettable that President Luis Guillermo Solís doesn't realize that a rejection of this woman becomes a rejection to him and his administration.

Ardón apologized on her Facebook the day after her tweets, saying she didn't mean to cause offense. But the controversy continued. Costa Rica's bishops expressed their “serious” disagreement with Ardón's tweets in a note sent to the country's foreign minister:

Señor Canciller de la República:
Como es de su conocimiento, la señora Ardón, de forma pública y reiterada se manifestó contra nuestras personas y magisterio, de modo despectivo e irrespetuoso. Fue, igualmente, inadecuada la manera en que se refirió al quehacer del clero costarricense, a la vez que, con sus comentarios en la red social Twitter ofendía la fe que comparte la mayoría de los ciudadanos de este país.
Nuestra inconformidad es grave y por ello elevamos esta nota a la instancia de gobierno que corresponde. […] En la libertad de expresión hay límites.

Foreign Minister:
As you may already know, Ms. Ardón publicly and repeatedly has positioned herself against us and our profession, in a contemptuous and disrespectful way. Likewise, the way she referred to the daily tasks of the Costa Rican clergy was inappropriate, and at the same time, her remarks on social network Twitter offended the faith shared by the majority of the country's citizens.
Our displeasure is serious and so we send this note to the pertinent level of government. […] There are limits to freedom of expression.

The blog Anchas Alamedas wrote about freedom of expression of public servants:

Uno [funcionario púbilco] no puede decir que está actuando en su condición personal porque no se puede desprender de esa investidura profesional y pública a gusto. La única forma de quitarse esa investidura, es renunciando a la misma. […]. Precisamente por eso, es que las sanciones a las actuaciones de los funcionarios públicos son mucho más estrictas para el resto de los mortales, […]. Julia sabrá si se disculpa o no, si renuncia o no, y es una decisión personal, muy dura, que solo ella puede tomar y nadie debe/puede juzgar.

One [public servant] can't say they are acting in their personal capacity as they can't leave aside the professional and public post comfortably. The only way is getting rid of that position is by renouncing it. […]. It is precisely due to this why sanctions for actions by public servants are much more strict than for the rest of us mortals, […]. Julia should know if she apologizes or not, if she resigns or not, and it's a personal decision, a very tough one, she is the only one who can make it and nobody must nor should judge.

Not everyone on Twitter disagreed with Ardón:

Tweets saying Julia Ardón was imprudent and tactless, the same treatment the Church has had towards society.

I've always seen Julia Ardón expressing her opinions, and that's what we all do on Twitter, but if her opinions don't line up with the rest, she gets badgered.

With all that's being said about her: Julia Ardón has more courage than most of [President] Luis Guillermo Solís’ Cabinet, including him.

Julia Ardón, who told the press that “it was a mistake to attack the Roman Catholic Church”, eventually resigned her position on April 10, to avoid doing damage to the government. She announced her decision on Facebook, where she published part of the resignation letter that she had submitted to the Costa Rican president:

No quiero que mis opiniones personales, cualesquiera que sean, empañen, coloquen dudas, o sean usadas para intentar manchar de ninguna manera su gestión al frente de un Gobierno en el que creo y que estoy segura, está tomando con responsabilidad el destino de esta nación y su pueblo.
Espero poder seguir colaborando, en la medida de mis posibilidades, y desde el lugar de la ciudadanía, con el cambio que Costa Rica merece y que Usted tuvo el valor de atreverse a liderar.

I don't want personal opinions, whatever they are, to tarnish, cast doubt on or be used to stain in any way at all his administration as head of a government, which I believe in and I'm sure he's leading the nation and its people responsibly to their destiny.
I hope to be able to keep collaborating, as much as I can, and as a citizen, with the change that Costa Rica deserves and that you had the courage to dare to lead.

The news of her resignation was also commented on Twitter:

And Julia Ardón is gone. It seems that this country's untouchable and undetachable are bishops, Catholic or Lutheran. You screw with them and you lose.

Julia Ardón announces on Facebook her resignation. “I clarify that no one invited me to do so, directly nor ‘diplomatically.'”

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