Judicial agents pick up a well-known sex tourist Friday, and the case raises a multitude of free speech issues.
The arrest also might be the beginning of a crackdown on Web sites and businesses here that cater to North Americans in search of prostitutes.
At the very least the case has injected a bit of paranoia among some expats who wonder who turned in Cuba Dave, whose real name is David Strecker.
Agents detained the 65-year-old man as he got off a plane at Juan Santamaría airport Friday. The agency, the Judicial Investigating Organization, was unable to say Sunday what has followed, although there is a good chance that Strecker spent the weekend in prison.
He faces an allegation that he promotes Costa Rica through social networks as a place for sexual tourism. Agents said they were working on confidential information, which resulted in the finger pointing in the Gringo community. There also is a suggestion that the tip came from U.S. law enforcement.
Specifically the judicial agency said that Strecker uploaded photos and videos to social network sites that promoted the country as a sex tourism destination.
The free speech dimension comes from the possible prosecution of someone for posting truthful information on the Web. Strecker used to write on a site that used his nickname Cuba Dave. It is cubadave.com, but it is operated by a fellow Key West man identified by the Internet authorities as Henry Allen. And the site is not even published from Costa Rica. Its Internet service provider is in San Francisco, California.
Lately Strecker’s recent first-person sex tourism reports have concerned Sosua, a community in the Dominican Republic, according to the WayBack Machine, an Internet service that archives Web site pages that no longer are current. The cubadave.com site shows a note that says it is down for maintenance.
Strecker also posts to his own Facebook page.
Judicial agents said they began the investigation at the beginning of the year. Strecker is proud of his activities that date to boat trips to Cuba in the 1990s. He was the object of an extensive article in New Times Miami, which might have attracted the attention of the authorities there.
The Dec. 13, 2013, news article noted that Strecker claimed to have had sexual experiences with 2,500 prostitutes under 25 years of age.
Judicial agents also are proud in that they pointed out the arrest of the man was the first under the law prohibiting promotion of Costa Rica as a sex tourism destination.
The anti-sex tourism law comes from the president Laura Chinchilla administration.
Article 8 of the law’s Chapter Three says that anyone who promotes or carries out programs, campaigns, publicity announcements, making use of any medium to project the country at the national and international level as a tourist destination accessible for commercial sexual exploitation or prostitution of persons of whatever age or sex shall be penalized with from four to eight years of prison.
The following article expands the range of suspects to those who own, rent, possess or administer an establishment or place designed for or benefiting from the trafficking of persons or related activities.
The section was part of a lengthy trafficking-in-persons law. Officials then said they were concerned about articles and advertising that appeared in newspapers and online in the United States.
Strecker has published several books that describe his sexual tourism exploits.
At the time the law was proposed, A.M. Costa Rica questioned its constitutionality.
Another part of the same law raised the airport exit tax $1, ostensibly to provide care for persons who have been trafficked.
One of Strecker’s online defenders posted a comment over the weekend noting that what the man is accused of promoting is legal in Costa Rica. Paid sex between consenting adults is not punished in Costa Rica, and there are hundreds of female and transgender prostitutes in the metro area. The poster also noted that North American sex tourism might make up just 10 percent of the activity with prostitutes here. The remainder involves Costa Ricans, the posting said.
The politics of sex tourism and trafficking in persons is complex, and there is a lot of grant money involved. The U.S. State Department repeatedly ignores in its annual trafficking in persons report that adult prostitution is not a criminal act in Costa Rica. The department considers every woman in prostitution to be a trafficking victim, and its employees appear to be totally ignorant of male prostitution in Costa Rica.
The U.S. report has considerable impact here. Costa Rican officials make selective raids and arrests to look good in the State Department’s next annual report. This year the department claimed without evidence that the north and central Pacific coasts of Costa Rica were places where women and children were being trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.
So this morning the Cámara de Comercio y Turismo de Tamarindo and the Fundación Rahab plan a conference on the topic at the Hotel Tamarindo Diriá. Fundación Rahab is one of those organizations that profit from U.S. grants to aid former prostitutes. This also is the organization that sends volunteers along on police raids to administer questionnaires to prostitutes.