The crime is posting the truth to the Internet

When lawmakers in the last legislative session proposed to criminalize describing Costa Rica as a sex tourism destination, we laughed.

Certainly common sense would prevail, we thought. You cannot criminalize posting truthful information to the Internet, right? Wrong.

The bill passed the legislature and then-president Laura Chinchilla signed the measure into law. The sex tourism crime was hidden within a series of other measures.

Certainly this will be one of those Costa Rica laws that no one enforces, right? Wrong.

Judicial police picked up a 65-year-old fan of adult prostitutes at Juan Santamaría Friday.

He will be prosecuted under a law that cannot withstand close inspection.

The man’s crime, it appears, is writing about his extensive sexual exploits here and in other countries. Certainly he is not someone the average person would invite to lunch, but freedom of expression is designed to protect unpleasant statements. The general theme of the man’s writing is that Costa Rica and some other Latin countries are sexual tourism destinations. And that is the truth.

The government cannot make this fact go away by making it a forbidden topic. The country has chosen not to prosecute prostitution, and that is a fact, too.  Even the U.S. State Department says that Costa Rica is a sex tourism destination.

So the arrest raises troubling questions about the competency of prosecutors and lawmakers, and expats can wonder what topic will be the next that will be made off-limits.

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