In the photos, supporters hold signs supporting Karina Bolaños. Some of the women posing appear in only their bras – looking just like Bolaños did in a private video she recorded for a lover.
That video got Bolaños fired from her job in the Culture Ministry after someone uploaded it to YouTube on Monday.
Her dismissal has turned into the latest volatile issue for a government that has faced a number of controversies in 2012. Many Costa Ricans feel outraged that Bolaños was removed from her position for a private matter.
Bolaños has said the video was made in 2007, and it was stolen from her computer by a hacker who allegedly has extorted her for more than a year.
In the self-made video, Bolaños appears in her underwear flirting at the camera from a bed.
President Laura Chinchilla forced Bolaños out once the video surfaced. The agreement signed by the president stated “the separation from her job will allow Bolaños to face this case from the private sphere.” The Culture Ministry is a distraction that prevents Bolaños from fulfilling her role in the government, which involves creating programs for young Costa Ricans.
Bolaños took over the vice minister position in 2006, when the Oscar Arias administration took office. In an interview with CNN Español, the only media she has granted an interview to, Bolaños called her firing an “injustice.”
She told the news station she respected the decision of Chinchilla and Culture Minister Manuel Obregón. However, she expected at least a chance to explain herself.
“I believe that, as a woman, I had the right to defend myself, to talk,” Bolaños told CNN. “And I believe that my work should not be measured by questions that are part of my personal life.”
Her firing, in light of the personal nature of the video – and now the extortion allegations – prompted an outcry on social media online.
One new Facebook page called “Yo apoyo a Karina Bolaños, Viceministra de Juventud” (I Support Karina Bolaños, vice minister of youth) has almost 4,000 fans as of Wednesday afternoon. Photos posted on the website include photos of all ages in their skivvies, while presenting on pieces of paper the message “We are Karina Bolaños.” The protesters see the government’s position on the issue as sexist, and have planned a march from the Central Park to the Casa Presidencial on Aug. 11 at 9 a.m.
Some, including a furious editorial on Telenoticas 7, have called Bolaños’ immediate firing hypocritical in light of recent political scandals where the presidency has defended embattled politicians, including Vice President Luis Liberman and the education minister.
Several Cabinet heads have been fired or resigned this year. However, this time a ministry employee was fired for a private matter, even though the same ministry that let her go also commended her work.
At a press conference Tuesday for an event unrelated to the incident, the president refused to take questions in regards to the matter.
“I will not refer to this topic,” Chinchilla said. “Are there any other questions?”
The Culture Ministry released a statement Tuesday evening backing the decision. The statement said the situation serves as a major distraction and prevents Bolaños from providing “the necessary efforts required to drive assorted public policies.”
The ministry statement also cited an article in the daily newspaper La Teja, published Monday, which stated Bolaños had a harassment complaint filed against her by a person asking for a restraining order.
Bolaños is married to National Liberation Party lawmaker Víctor Hugo Víquez. According to the daily Diario Extra, Bolaños had filed for divorce from her husband last September after alleging domestic abuse.
But Bolaños protected her husband in the CNN interview. She said the video was recorded in 2007 when Bolaños and Víquez were separated. Víquez plans to take three days off from his work in the Legislative Assembly due to the matter.
“He is very concerned,” Bolaños said.
The former vice minister said she plans to take legal action against the alleged extortionist.