As in the Arab Spring, social media scored another direct hit, this time silencing a vicious, seemingly invincible marionette who professes to be the voice of the Puerto Rican people.
It is being called the Boricua Winter.
Its Tahrir Square is the wave of violence that threatens to engulf the island. Last week it claimed yet another victim in horrific, graphic detail.
The grotesque murder of Gómez Saladín has united Puerto Rico and threatens to oust a malicious gossip queen from her throne, which would have been unthinkable a week ago
- Susanne Ramírez de Arellano
In circumstances that are still murky, publicist José Enríquez Gómez Saladín was savagely beaten, set on fire while alive and left to die.
His murder, the most grisly in a long line of others, shook Puerto Rico and sparked a social media campaign.
Under the umbrella #todossomosjoseenriquez, Puerto Ricans, including the singer and actor Ricky Martin and crooner Victor Manuelle, finally came together on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to demand an end to the violence and a return to peace.
But it was not until La Comay, voiced by the puppeteer Antulio “Kobo” Santarrosa on the show SuperXclusivo, weighed into the discussion that a social media maelstrom was set off.
Sporting cartoonish red lips and a penchant for prurient gossip, La Comay implied that Gómez Saladín was soliciting the services of a male or female prostitute, just hours before the grisly killing. Basically, he stated that the crime was the victim’s own fault for being where he should not have been.
The general manager of WAPA TV, which broadcast’s SuperXclusivo, Joe Ramos, further ignited the issue by calling the digital reaction “emotional” and that he would not censure the doll.
This is not the first time that La Comay indulges in homophobic hate speech with an impunity brought about by high ratings. But his comments on this particular incident were so offensive that they became the last straw and could cost him dearly.
The Facebook page Boicot La Comay, as of this writing, has 60,000 likes and calls for the cancelation of the program. The Boricua Winter, as one Twitter writer put it.
Major sponsors such as Walmart, Palo Viejo, Vanilla Gift Card, Joyerias Borroto, Dish Puerto Rico, Triple S, ATH, Borden, Claro, St. Jude’s Hospital, pulled their ads from the program, hitting WAPA TV where it hurts. And they keep on dropping.
“It’s the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Do not disparage the efforts of the “few” that have achieved the withdrawal of sponsors from the program of him who thought he was indestructible,” wrote Iris Rodriguez on the Boicot La Comay FaceBook page.
In an open letter to Ramos, who in the past few days has been busy back tracking his initial statements, the creators of the Facebook page called for the cancelation of the program.
"This movement will continue to grow and will achieve its goal. There is no doubt that this message is conclusive: the time has come for WAPA-TV to cancel SuperXclusivo and retire La Comay – and in its stead place programming that does not sow the seeds of hate and vengeance in our people,” it read.
Even Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez joined the chorus of criticism.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the access to the air waves that belong to all the people be abused in this fashion in the search for vulgar sensationalism and audience, utilizing as a base unconfirmed allegations made by four assassins that are trying to justify a crime that is unjustifiable,” he said.
The grotesque murder of Gómez Saladín has united Puerto Rico and threatens to oust a malicious gossip queen from her throne, which would have been unthinkable a week ago.
During a press conference, Gomez Saladin’s widow summed the scenario of violence and the island’s reaction to it by enumerating some of its better known victims.
“We are all Jose Enriquez, we are all Juan Carlos, we are all Yexeira, we were all Karla Michelle, we are all Lorenzo, we are all Puerto Rico,” she said.
Susanne Ramirez de Arellano is a freelance writer based in New York City. She is a former News Director for Univision Puerto Rico and has worked for ABC News, the Associated Press Television News in London and CNN International. She writes a Blog for www.magacin.com called Susanne en la Ciudad.