San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Cuba Dave set to finish year in preventive prison on allegations of promoting sex tourism

David “Cuba Dave” Strecker is set to finish out a full year in preventive prison for allegations of promoting sex tourism in Costa Rica. The 65-year-old U.S. citizen was captured at the Juan Santamaría International Airport in September on suspicion of violating the country’s Sex Tourism Law with a website and other social media outlets that provide information about prostitution in various Latin American countries, including Costa Rica.

Following a preliminary hearing in a San José court Thursday morning, Strecker told The Tico Times that his preventive prison sentence had been extended yet again, this time to Sept. 4, marking one full year that he’ll spend behind bars.

Strecker said he was formally presented with charges Thursday for the first time. He said a judge told him that if his case were brought to trial, he could be sentenced up to 12 years in prison.

Strecker spoke to The Tico Times by phone from La Reforma jail. His public defense lawyer for the hearing, Mauricio Antillán, was not available for comment Thursday.

Costa Rica’s Sex Tourism Law, which Strecker is accused of violating, calls for a maximum of eight years, but the Key West, Florida native said prosecutors are looking to try him for three different charges relating to the same crime.

“That’d be like giving the guy the death penalty for jaywalking,” Strecker said. He was unclear exactly what the charges were when he spoke with The Tico Times Thursday.

In November, a spokeswoman from the prosecutor’s office told The Tico Times that charges are based on provisions of the 2013 Human Trafficking Law that prohibit promoting sex tourism.

“The criminal case began after various publications were found on the Internet made by the suspect in which he was apparently inviting other North Americans to visit Costa Rica, indicating that prostitution services in the country were easy to find,” she said.

Prostitution among consenting adults is legal in Costa Rica.

Strecker, who will turn 66 in a few weeks, was transferred to the senior wing of La Reforma jail in February after five months in the overcrowded San Sebastián prison.

In Costa Rica, preventive prison sentences generally cannot exceed 12 months. However, in exceptional cases, such as individuals accused of being involved in organized crime, a judge can order preventive prison for up to 18 months. To extend Stecker’s time in pretrial detention even longer, the prosecution would have to prove to a judge that Strecker is part of a criminal network that operates in prostitution or trafficking.

After cycling through several private lawyers, Strecker has turned to public defense. He said multiple lawyers and advisors have told him that the prosecution doesn’t have much evidence against him except for Facebook and blog posts taken from pages sporting his “Cuba Dave” brand name.

“I know I didn’t break a law, but I’m trapped here,” Strecker said when The Tico Times visited him at La Reforma prison in June. “There’s a big difference between promoting and informing. What I ran was a travel website.”

Strecker said during that visit that he would be willing to take a plea deal that includes a lifetime ban from Costa Rica and that takes into account his time served in preventive prison.

“You get your hopes up sometimes but I’ve been through this for so long that I really don’t get my hopes up anymore,” he said.

Contact Michael Krumholtz at

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This smacks of a political prosecution and an overreach to stifle free speech. There are many folks who personally don’t like legal prostitution and they are lighting a fire to make an example of him. He is not being accused of pimping or pandering since he made no money from this and they are using a corrupt, nebulous law to enforce morality on a non-citizen. Shameful!

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Hachi Ko

Political? Possibly. However, this story has become practically invisible, and I am not aware of anyone else who has been arrested for an alleged violation of this law. I seriously doubt that anyone else will be arrested regarding this law. Cubadave languishes in Preventiva for almost a year, and no one in the Costa Rican government has a clue how to prosecute the case. Imagine that.

Free Speech? No. That’s not the issue. I believe that Costa Rica has the right to define the limits of free speech, and restricting the publishing of information which paints the entire country of Costa Rica as a Whorehouse is a legitimate restriction, in my opinion. But that’s not the issue.

The issue is the holding of Cubadave in Preventiva for a whole year without even allowing him his day in court or providing him with any release. His mother died while he was detained. This perpetual “jail time” is what is not fair.


As far as the “Laura Law” goes, have you noticed how no one else has been arrested, and this entire issue has just faded away? Have you noticed how the tourist traffic from Europe has been steadily increasing? What a Coincidence!

Costa Rica institutes a “Shhh! Don’t tell anyone that prostitution is legal” law, to avoid scaring away the puritanical tourists from the USA. Then, the European tourists start arriving in droves, and the lawmakers and law enforcement entities just say, “Oh… Never Mind!”

I’ll take “Hypocrisy” for $800, Alex…

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Steve Someone

Costa Rica is one of the nations that expressed support in the UN for the UDHR, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression for everyone. All Cuba Dave did was talk about prostitution in Costa Rica which is legal in Costa Rica. I for one will stay away from Costa Rica and countries like it that don’t respect human rights.

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Colin Brownlee

Any civilized country dealing with someone like Cuba Dave where there was no clear path to prosecution of an ill-defined law would simply bar them from entry. But then if they did that, they would not be able to pat themselves on the back and pretend they were actually accomplishing something in the tragic realities of human trafficking.

The “elephant in the room” is minors being prostituted by their parents to mainly other Ticos. This subject is finally finding some space in the press. My experience is sex with minors among Ticos just seems totally common place and accepted as normal.

So what really is the agenda here? Another political distraction?

Costa Rica likes to view themselves as this “beacon of democracy”. They even nominated Figueres as head of the UN. If they want to be taken seriously in the world, they will have to do way better then this.

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Steve Someone

Note to self: avoid Costa Rica; spend my money in countries that allow freedom of speech on the Internet.

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Fernando Gerdano

What this plainly shows everyone and it should like a punch in the nose, that if you are a foreigner living in Costa Rica. Residency or not if you get the wrong people mad at you they can throw you in jail with no charges for a very very long time. This guy cuba dave is not a good person but no way does what he did deserve to die in San Sebastian prison with NO charges brought against him. 3rd world, visit CR be nice, leave fast. Pura vida.

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Ken Morris

Although I’m glad that Cuba Dave was arrested–I think the law he allegedly violated is constitutional and suspect that he is guilty–his protracted preventative detention does bother me a lot. Actually, were he even convicted of all the charges against him, I would consider a year’s imprisonment too harsh a sentence. Yet he’s already done his year without being convicted. This is wrong.

However, I wonder if the takeway here ought to be the risks of perpetual tourism. I’m no local lawyer, but I can’t escape the suspicion that Cuba Dave’s lack of legal residency in Costa Rica is a main reason he’s in preventative detention. The state after all can’t release him and tell him to remain in Costa Rica, since he doesn’t have the legal right to remain in the country, but the state doesn’t want him to leave Costa Rica either, since it wants to try his case. What else can it legally do with him except keep him in preventative detention if it wants to try him?

So, I dunno. Even legal residents may find themselves in a similar preventative detention pickle, since I doubt that Costa Rica has the right to confiscate the passport or a citizen of a foreign country, and it may not have the right to block holders of foreign passports from leaving the country.

However, I have to suspect that Cuba Dave’s status as a tourist makes his preventative detention pickle worse.

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Hachi Ko

It is up to every country to define its own limits upon Free Speech. You can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre. You can’t incite violence.

Costa Rica has decided that it doesn’t want the whole country to be depicted as a Whorehouse. That’s the law. You break it, you buy it. It’s not up to other countries to decide if that is a violation of Free Speech or not. Although I may or may not agree with it, I do believe that it is within the bounds of reason to enforce the law in question.

What I do NOT like is the One Entire Year of Preventiva to which “Cuba Dave” has been subjected. But that’s the law in Costa Rica. I definitely don’t like it… I think that law is ridiculous… but it IS the LAW. I am FAR more upset about the Preventiva Law than the so-called “Laura Law”… the “sex tourism promotion” law.

What I would like to say to Costa Rica is…

“It is really not cool at all to just lock someone up… especially a foreign tourist… for a whole year… without even letting them face the charges which are brought against them. That is just not fair.”

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Steve Someone

And it is up to every person to decide what countries they will avoid because they don’t respect basic human rights. I suspect their are international laws that Costa Rica has violated by doing this, but no one cares about the little guy.

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Michael Morse

He is a pimp, he facilitates contact between prostitutes and johns. What gaul anyone has to come to a foreign country abuse their laws and then people make him look like a champion for human rights. To make him look like a victim makes you newspaper look cheap and immorale.

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Hachi Ko

I’ve met Cubadave on many occasions. He was NEVER a Pimp. He never facilitated contact between prostitutes and johns. If anything, he took pride in attracting a girl to himself and seeing that another guy could not attract the same girl… even with money… prostitution.

Cubadave got his jollies from being the “Number One, Super Cool Whoremonger.”

Did Cubadave promote the image of Costa Rica as a “Sex Tourism Destination”?

I would say “Yes.”

Did Cubadave “Pimp”?

I never witnessed any indication of that activity. Pimping would be subject to an entirely different, much older law, anyway.

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