UPDATED October 17, 2020, with a response from David Strecker (at the end of the aritcle(.
QCOSTARICA – On February 8, 2013, sex tourism was introduced into the Penal Code as a crime. A year and four months later, the Prosecutor’s Office charged American blogger David Frank Strecker, aka Cuba Dave for promoting Costa Rica as a sexual tourist destination on the Internet
In the first trial, in November 2016, Strecker, now 71 years old, was sentenced by the San Jose criminal court to five years in prison for recommending Internet sites where alleged sexual activities occurred in the country.
This was the first sentence for this crime in the country.
That freedom was taken advantage of by the American, who seven days after the appeal court ruling, left the country and never returned, according to a report from Costa Rica’s immigration service, the Dirección de Migración y Extranjería (DGME).
That means, then, that the defendant did not appear for the second trial against him, which was scheduled for June 18, 2019, confirmed the Deputy Prosecutor for Gender Affairs.
“For that same date, the Public Ministry also presented a request for preventive detention, which had to be resolved by the Court, but it was not possible, due to the absence of the subject,” explained the Prosecutor’s office.
The press office of the Poder Judicial (Judiciary) pointed out that, as a result of the blogger’s flight, an arrest warrant in Costa Rica was issued by the San José Criminal Court.
Thus, despite the fact that a year and four months have passed since the second trial was supposed to take place, Strecker remains unaccountable to the authorities.
- See our articles on Cuba Dave here.
The non-governmental organization, Rahab Foundation, that fights against human trafficking and the sex trade was the one who, on June 23, 2014, alerted the authorities to Strecker’s alleged intentions to promote the country as a sexual tourist destination.
When the Fiscalia (Prosecutor’s Office) learned of the matter began the investigations, followed by the arrest in September 2015.
While the defendant was in preventive detention (remand) in the San Sebastián jail, the investigations against him were progressing and in the end the Prosecutor’s Office considered him responsible for which he was formally charged and scheduled a trial.
According to the Fiscalia, the accused visited Costa Rica several times to be able to take videos and photographs of the sites where erotic and sexual activities appear to take place. Between 2013 and 2014, he published the images on Facebook, YouTube, and on the Ticoland site, under the name of Cuba Dave in Costa Rica or Cuba Dave.
The accusation mentions that, in the publications, the blogger asserted that in Costa Rica “there are girl-friendly hotels”, in other words, hotels where women hang out looking for customers or hotels where customers can take prostitutes for sexual encounters.
The Fiscalia reproached him: “(The accused) affirms that they should not talk to girls in the street since they could be boys and they do not let them enter the bars. With this communication that Mr. David Frank Strecker makes, an exhibition is effectively made of the country promoting the visit to find sex with men and women (…).
“There he informs whoever follows him how he can get to the country, where to stay without having a problem entering the hotel with a girl and not being sanctioned at an economic level; in addition, it updates prices of the lodging sites and even indicates which hotels are disqualified”.
Based on the evidence presented by the Prosecutor’s Office, in November 2016, the San José Criminal Court found Strecket guilty of the crime of sex tourism, which sanctions anyone who “promotes or carries out programs, campaigns or advertisements, using any means, to project the country at a national and international level as an accessible tourist destination for commercial sexual exploitation, or the prostitution of people of any sex”.
The penalties range between four and eight years in prison. In Strecker’s case, the thee judge panel chose to impose five years in prison, thus becoming the first conviction in the country for this crime.
However, the defense appealed the conviction, since it assured that in the first trial the Prosecutor’s Office failed to demonstrate that the foreigner was aware that the publications on social networks were punishable by prison in Costa Rica.
In August 2017, the Goicoechea Sentencing Appeal Court agreed with the arguments of the defence and acquitted Strecker, ordered his immediate release, as well as a remission trial to hear the case again.
But, the court did not issue an ‘impedimento de salida” – a ban on leaving the country.
Thus, David Frank Strecker left the San Sebastian jail on Friday, August 18, 2017, waiting for the new trial.
However, as immigration records indicate, on the 25th of that same month he left the country, and that there is no entry after that date.
Thus, the first case prosecuted for the crime of sex tourism seems to remain in impunity. For now.
Typically, a foreigner, considered a flight risk, accused of a serious crime in Costa Rica, is asked to surrender his or her passport and a ban is ordered on leaving the country.
In the case of Strecker, the fact that immigration does have a record of him leaving the country legally indicates there was no ban on his leaving the country while awaiting a new trial. Why that was the case, at least not until after he failed to appear, is not clear.
Prostitution not illegal in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, prostitution is not illlegal. Costa Rica’s legal system is based on Roman law rather than common law, and so for prostitution to be illegal it would have to be explicitly stated as such in the Penal Code
Thus, in Costa Rica, is not illegal (male or female) for the practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for immediate payment in money or other valuables.
However, many of the activities surrounding it are illegal, such as promoting or facilitating the prostitution of another – proxenetismo (pimping). Brothels, or prostitution rings, and promoting the country as a sex tourism destination is illegal.
And while prostitution is carried out in parts of the country, there is a major hub or red-light district in the capital, San José, known as Gringo Gulch.
Prostitution in Costa Rica is about money, to pay for housing, food and day care for their children, about improving a standard of living that cannot be realized with Costa Rica’s low wages.
Response rom David Strecker by way of email:
I was found not guilty, released with no restrictions. It was not a conditional release, the judge (3 women panel) absolved the case It was over the prosecutor never showed when the verdict was read.
I stayed in CR for 7 days to see friends. I had no problem leaving or returning to the States. I moved to Medellín 3 years ago I have a Facebook site I am not hiding I am easy to find.
What they didn’t tell you is after my release my lawyers sued for over $2 million, then they decide to appeal hoping I didn’ show on short notice then they won’t pay, might want to check the Ann Patton case, the same thing.
The warrant is a bench warrant is not an international warrant They never had a case. I never had a confirmed sentence of 5 years that was dismissed by the supreme court. I spent 2 years in preventive prison you get 2 for 1 so its really 4 years.
Since my release I have traveled to Cuba twice and Colombia twice before moving here (Colombia) I have long term visa and Colombia was informed about me, they investigated and sent out two Federal warrant on the guy who made up the story about me.
Just connect the dots. These people (Costa Ricans) don’t want the truth.