Wearing a custom hat bearing the Cuba Dave brand name, cargo shorts, and sandals, Dave Strecker sticks out even after all this time locked up in the senior wing of Costa Rica’s La Reforma Correctional Center. The 66-year-old U.S. citizen and sex tourist has now spent 14 months in the country’s preventive prison system on allegations that he broke the country’s relatively new Sex Tourism Law.
Strecker’s trial, where prosecutors will argue that the man known more commonly as Cuba Dave violated the four-year-old Sex Tourism Law by allegedly “promoting the country as a destination for sexual tourism,” is set to begin Wednesday in a San José courtroom: the first such trial in Costa Rican history.
During a Sunday interview at La Reforma, Strecker told The Tico Times that he’s optimistic he’ll be found not guilty of the charge.
“The big question is if it’s going to be fair,” Strecker said of the trial. “I thoroughly believe that if it’s fair and they look at the information, then I’ll be acquitted.”
Strecker said he will be the lone witness for the defense. Meanwhile, his lawyers have told him that the prosecution is expected to call in only technical witnesses: experts in the new law and in extracting information off the internet.
Strecker’s attorney Luís Diego Chacón, who was just assigned to the case a few months ago, told The Tico Times in August that he is “very confident” Strecker will be acquitted when trial proceedings begin.
“If you look at the ruling on this particular article and the way it was written, you’d know it was intended for organized crime,” Chacón said of the law, which is a component of the broader Human Trafficking Law.
In Costa Rica, the prosecutor’s office cannot legally comment on ongoing cases. A spokeswoman for the office told The Tico Times via email in November 2015 that the investigation into Strecker was opened after authorities became aware of his blog posts and videos uploaded to the Internet. She said these materials “appeared to be inviting other North Americans to visit Costa Rica, indicating that prostitution services were easy to come by in the country.”
If convicted, Strecker could face four to eight years per count, according to Article 162 bis of the criminal code. Chacón told The Tico Times that Strecker is facing three counts of the same crime for various online postings and that the prosecution is requesting a 12-year sentence.
However, Strecker said again Sunday that these posts and videos were trip reports to Costa Rica akin to a travel blog. “I was informing, not promoting,” he said.
He pointed out that the Costa Rican judiciary could create a slippery precedent if they charge him for promoting sex tourism, asking why more established media reports of child prostitution never get questioned. He maintained that his cubadave.com web site and associated YouTube channel, from which the prosecution will try to extract its evidence for the trial, were merely “informational warnings” for men interested in visiting Costa Rica.
“I’m like a reporter, not a pimp,” Strecker said.