San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Sex Tourism

Cuba Dave found guilty of promoting sex tourism, faces five more years in prison

David Strecker, known more widely by his Internet moniker “Cuba Dave,” earned the unenviable distinction of being the first person convicted under Costa Rica’s relatively new Sex Tourism Law on Wednesday. A trio of San José judges unanimously declared the 66-year-old U.S. man guilty of promoting the country as a place where foreigners can enjoy the benefits of legal prostitution, in violation of the previously untested 2012 law.

Giving a summary of the verdict, Judge Vivian Obando said that Strecker’s various web postings about the sex tourism scene in Costa Rica have done “societal harm” and negatively affected the country’s commercial image.

“There is no doubt that this person acted with a final plan in place of promoting the country as a destination for sex tourism,” Obando said.

Though Strecker’s defense attorney Luís Diego Chacón told The Tico Times after the historic trial that an appeal would be made as soon as possible, judges gave Strecker a five-year sentence for the single count of Sex Tourism. In his summation Wednesday, Chacón pleaded with judges to dismiss the three charges against his client, in part because the particular law contained under the broader Human Trafficking Law had never been applied before.

At one point holding up a copy of La Teja newspaper, which famously shows pictures of scantily-clad women, the attorney asked the judges if there was any difference in what the local newspaper does and what Strecker did under his Cuba Dave moniker.

“I just don’t think that this particular situation was…the first,” Chacón told The Tico Times after the conviction was handed down. “I don’t think we’re talking about a criminal element. We’re defintely not talking about organized crime. It’s just a carpenter from Key West, Florida who likes girls and likes to travel.”

David Strecker listens to his translator during trial proceedings.

Alberto Font/The Tico Times

The second and final day of trial also included words from Public Ministry prosecutor María Quesada, testimony from Strecker himself, and the presentation of Strecker’s since-deleted YouTube videos where he discusses the San José sex tourism scene.

Quesada requested that Strecker serve 15 years of prison time, offering up three counts of sex tourism – one each for a YouTube channel, Facebook page, and Cuba Dave postings on the sex tourism blog

The prosecutor said that Strecker should have known better than to promote the country as a place to be taken advantage of by fellow sex tourists. Quesada argued that even though Strecker saw himself as a sort of “journalist” who was informing his followers about traveling to San José, his actions in publishing these informational videos, photos, and blog posts had far-reaching and negative consequences for Costa Rican society.

“Although prostitution isn’t a crime here, it often coincides with psychological and physical violence,” Quesada said. “Women are treated like sexual and commercial objects, used as instruments for unhealthy pleasure.”

Judges hear testimony from a member of the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) who investigated Strecker on accusations of violating the country’s sex tourism law.

Alberto Font/The Tico Times

Strecker has been in preventive prison since Sept. 4, 2015; he told judges Wednesday in his last opportunity to speak before the court that the Cuba Dave brand died on the day his imprisonment began. In August of that year it was the Rahab Foundation – a local NGO committed to combating human trafficking – that opened the case against Strecker with a formal complaint to the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), according to lawyers and an OIJ agent who was called to the witness stand at the trial’s opening day last week.

Earlier this year, The Tico Times met with Rahab Foundation’s lawyers, who denied that the organization put in the official complaint or even had any knowledge of the case.

The Tico Times called Rahab founder Mariliana Morales Tuesday to inquire about the official complaint, informing her that an OIJ official said in sworn testimony during the trial that the accusation came from Rahab. Before hanging up the phone abruptly, Morales said she would not comment on the case.

In a long statement on the stand Wednesday, Strecker told judges that he has always had a passion for photography, which is why he started taking pictures of local women with their consent. He said the Cuba Dave network grew as more and more of his male followers began requesting info about where to stay in San José and what to watch out for. Saying he made no financial gain from any of his posts, Strecker told judges that he just liked being the guy who updated people on his travels in Costa Rica.

“I’ve been in jail for 438 days and this is the first time I’ve been able to tell my side,” Strecker said. “I just want you to know I had no intention of doing anything to harm the country of Costa Rica.”

Contact Michael Krumholtz at

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Johnnie Quezada

I get what you’re saying Ken But let’s run this thought experiment. Now let’s look at soda pop. It is legal to produce and consume but you cannot advertise it legally. Hugh, that’s absurd. Precisely! I think the legalization of an act presupposes it is going to be talked about, written about and watched. While we can all agree that harm can come to a society from certain acts, once something is legal disseminating information about it is par for the course. Which was precisely what Dave was up to. The legality of an an act cannot help but be bound up by its dissemination. They are co-joined twins.

Then there’s the aspect of free speech. In Dave’s case we have the rather curious (and no doubt unintended) side effect of a judiciary concluding you can engage in acts normally considered immoral but you cannot talk about it. Again, Hugh? So let me get this straight, what Dave did is worse than the actual acts of prostitution occurring daily in the country? In his own words the prosecutor noted: “Although prostitution isn’t a crime here, it often coincides with psychological and physical violence,” . . . “Women are treated like sexual and commercial objects, used as instruments for unhealthy pleasure.” Yeah, then the question becomes why is it legal to begin with? By running Cuba Dave up a pole you have the curious effect of making speech worse than the actual undesirable acts. One has to wonder how the precedent set in Cuba Dave’s case will facilitate attacks on speech deemed by the State as “harmful psychologically and inducing physical violence” when of course we are talking about speech clamoring for an unresponsive government to address legitimate grievances.

Also, the government’s case is mixing apples and oranges. Because prostitution is legal in that country, the MORAL basis for Dave prosecution falls away. So, all you are left with is legality. However, you cannot prosecute Dave through legal means based on a moral foundation. It is simply contradictory. The moral high ground was lost once legalization was passed. Unless you want to, again, maintain the bizarre contention that the acts are less harmful than Dave bragging about it. Curious morality if you ask me. You don’t want to be known as a den of prostitution, ahhh then how about not being one; hellooooo! Cuba did it. Prostitution was big in Cuba during the Batista years but was virtually wiped out once Castro came to power. Could it be because instead of making excuses the Castro Regime, for whatever faults it had, decided to raise the cultural/social level of its people rather than blaming others.

Moreover, using this 2012 law as their vehicle (untested until Dave came along) is oh so shaky. Dave did not do any trafficking and he did not personally profit from anything. If the government cares so much about the harmful effects on the country by acts of prostitution it would be far more effective de-legalizing it AND, again AND, giving these women all the support and guidance necessary to get them into decent employment with dignity. Why do I have the sneaky suspicion that is the last thing the government would do? Could all the money that would no longer be going to corrupt officials have anything to do with it? Hmmmmm, I guess it is much easier to scapegoat a 65 year old foreigner who in reality never harmed anybody for YOUR societal choices.

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Steve Someone

Costa Rica is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states in part everyone has the right “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Costa Rica has obviously violated this law and should be punished. Hypocrites. Stay away from Costa Rica, but if you go be sure to partake of their legal prostitutes.

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Elvis Caprice

Why don’t they go after the hotels/bars who accommodate prostitution and help, knowingly promote it? Oh, I see they know who to pay off to ensure their business remains unaltered. The double standards in Costa Rica are indeed a jungle hidden.

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WOW I am not a believer of sex for sale ESPECIALLY if it involved monors BUT THIS CASE IS RIDICULOUS AND SEEMS TO BE JUST SINGLING OUT YET ANOTHER GRINGO TO “PUNISH UNMERCIFULLY” I know of MANY pervered Ticos who use the sex trade of MINORS and open legal sex dens with NO Penalty, and posing as respctable business men.. This Cuba Dave seems only tot have been advertising what is promoted as LEGAL here in Costa Rica.Just as perverts do for warped sex and pedephelia.THAT should be what they are going after nt the Gringo or (Foreigner) who may have just been telling it as it is.AS IF TOURISTS ARE UNAWARE OF the LEGAL SEX TRADE HERE .What Hypocrites.
I have leagally lived here for 26 years and like HUNGREDS of ex pats who are leaving in droves I maybe packing my bags , since Costa Rica No longer seems to want us,,Despite the higher taxes, double priced items etc. YOU ARE KILLING THE GEESE THAT LAYS (PAST TENSE) THE GOLDEN EGGS) and many of us are taking out $$$$$$ out of CR with us.THERE ARE PRETTIER and much CHEAPER places to live these days. and the Justice system and the labor laws are alsi RIDICULOUS especailly for us foreigners .YOUR Ministery of Tabaja Jusdges not only auton=matically take the side of the LIARS who exptort us Gringos..but give them Carte Blanche to work less than the 3 month r=trial period THEN go to the office of Ministry if Trabaja and LIE LIKE RUGS , AND SAY THEY WORKED FOR US SEVERAL YEARS. AND WITH NO PROOF WHATSOEVER THAT THAT S TRUE WE ARE ORDERED TO PAY AN EXHORBTANT ANOUNT TO THE LYING “EMPLOYEE” Many make a living this way by just extorting us foreigners I have personal experience on more than one occassiona and guess what happens (just as tourissm declined due the the Blatant discrimination of charging triple PLUS prices for tourists in hotels and tours etc) WE NO LLONGER HIRE TICOS ! and is it any surprise that the large Conglaerates who opened up here have PULLED OUT losing youhundreds of jobs , becai=use of these ris=diculous labor laws leaving scam artists wealthy from EXTORTION!
I will cite one more examlple (although have had many in my 26 years her) YOUR OIJ who are supposed to be akin to our FBI is a JOKE!. example I had a Nica rent a small cabin on my property for a month at abig discount (soft hearted suckers we are) That man after 3 weks walked into my side door and I WITNESSED THROUGHA MIRROR HIM STEAL MY LEAGAL ,LOADED GUN. He of course disappeared immediately.I rushed tot he OIJ and reperted the incident and showed them PHOTOS of him, and a copy of his PASSPORT, and gave them his cell phone number and address where he went to stay with his brother,(Not much to go on eh? and after I ignored the dumb question”Why if you saw him steal your loaded gun did you not ask for it back .DUH I am sure the bullets would have been the thiefs response) I filed the report and expected them to go immediatley n arrest that theif and return my expensive gun($1,500 many years ago worth at least double now) end of story is amazing..When I had not heard via telephone or email ,as promised by the O.I.J.I went to the courthouse in Heredia (a town with not much crime so hardly over burdened) and after asking why I had not heard anything regarding the case was told “oh sorry but that case was CLOSED due to lack of evidence.WHAT? was I hearing things? and without even notifying me that it was to be closed.! NOPE the folder was stamped in Spanish CASE CLOSED . Nonplussed o wrote ther and then a note for the jusdge asking to please re open the case as the photo , passport copy etc and ME SEEING HIM ROB THE GUN should be sufficient evidendence .I HAVE HAERD NOTHING IN THE LAST 3 MONTHS…AMAZING JUSTICE SYSTEM EH? And by the way just one of several such weird results on very obvioys theft reports I have made in the past.
Keep it up Costa Rica your bad reputation for unjust legal problems is spreading all over tthe world like wildfire. Already that well known “Gringo Prices V National pricees” the signs which are posted outside of many hotels and National Parks and Volcanoes proving BLATANT DISCRIMINATION (ILLEGAL IN MOST COUNTRIES) HAS AND IS RUINING your best source of income TOURISM and those thinking of INVESTING here,YOU HAVE ALREADY lost man of the overcharged Foreigners with the new law of having to have LOTS of monthly income and FORCING us to pay for the inneficient CAJA no good medicine, and at least 6 months wait to see a doctor with private doctors vosits costing over $100 per visit (which can only be afforded by RICH TICOS,,discounted for them of course,) so we have buy our needed perscriptions and medicines. Mine cost $80 per month for an anti coalgulant, plus $60 a simple pill for a common heart arrythmia, etc. Sky rocketing food costs etc.
Who else feelis like smacking the next Tico who says with hardly an accent,( “MUCHO MONEY you GRINGOS HAVE ” (Amazing how they have learned that phrase fluently)
So I guess we have finally realized that a foriegner no longer can AFFORD TO LIVE HERE .. Nicaragua is now accepting thousand of ex pats and treating them with great appreciation
SO ADIOS COSTA RICA AND Gracias for the higher “Blue eyed TAXES and PRICES ” and auto inspection prices, and Gas price increases, and the cost to get residency, and the higher prices for US, etc etc… … PURA VIDA ?… I guess NOT… may I say maybe Pura PAJ*? the last late I think is an A :) NOW PLEASE LET THAT INNOCENT MAN CUBA DAVE GO FREE . HE HAS JUST ADVERTISED SOMETHING OU ALSO SHOULD HAVE CHANGED YEARS AGO!

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Ken Morris

Well, you can smoke cigarettes, just can’t advertise smoking. You can also have sex with your spouse, just can’t post photos of the two of you going at it on billboards. I truly don’t understand the argument of those who fail to see a distinction between a legal act and the illegal promotion of that act. IMO, that distinction is pretty clear.

My guess is that Strecker wasn’t aware of the law against promoting sex tourism, either that or failed to see the distinction between engaging in it and promoting it. Maybe, who knows, as the first guy snagged by the new law, he should have been cut some slack. Five years sounds harsh to me. However, he may whittle that down on appeal or get out sooner for “good behavior.” I think most convicts do.

But I was and remain for his conviction. Again, while there is some fuzziness to the case (and much of it would seem to turn on details we don’t know) I think that a line does exist between engaging in an activity and illegally promoting it. I also think Strecker crossed that line, and yes did harm.

However, this is the first I’ve heard of Rehab being behind his arrest, and I sure wish that at minimum the US Embassy would stop funding that outfit. In the name of fighting human trafficking, they really devote most of their efforts to fighting the gringos who hire prostitutes, and Rehab often uses illegal means. They’re a real loose cannon. I also don’t think they understand prostitution.

But as for Dave, I hope he gets out way before his five years are up. Without knowing all the facts of the case, I also suspect that he’s already been punished plenty. But I do think he’s guilty of a reasonable law and merited conviction.

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I’m astounded. What kind of hypocritical morons do they have in the judicial system? If they don’t want sexual tourism (which happens whether or not there’s a blog for it or not), then make prostitution illegal! Don’t say “its ok” then throw a man in jail for partaking and talking about it.

absolute insanity

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Shhhh …. it is perfectly legal and you can do it – just don’t talk about it or we will put you in prison. Wow … “societal harm and negatively affecting the country’s commercial image.” has now become a crime in Costa Rica along with free speech. The anti-prostitution crowd is really grasping at straws to make an example of Dave. I guess they feel emboldened go after anyone publishing anything about legal prostitution now.

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John Q Smith

Viagra single packs.

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