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Prostitution in Costa Rica is legal because no law in the Penal Code explicitly establishes that sexual activity is illegal.
- OIJ photos are for illustration purposes only -

Published Thursday, July 1, 2021

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents of the Judicial Investigation Organization, OIJ, arrested a U.S. citizen with resident status, surnamed Clinton, 63, as a suspect of running a brothel, more commonly known as being a pimp.

According to the agent's brief report, the case began in December 2020, when a complaint was received about a hotel where women were offering sexual services and they had to pay part of their income to the hotel manager.

After an investigation, the agents collected enough evidence to allow the Specialized Section on Gender Violence, Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants to order the raid of the hotel located in downtown San José.

Allegedly, the women had to prostitute themselves and charge each client between ˘15,000 to ˘22,000 colones (approximately $25 to $35) and then payout the suspect, the agents said.

During the raid in the hotel, the agents located the suspect and 10 women, among them Costa Ricans and foreign victims.

The women were attended by specialists in human treatment cases. The suspect was taken to the cells of the Public Ministry where he was interrogated by the judicial agents. He is now waiting until a judge orders the pre-trial measures against as suspected of sexual exploitation.

According to the U.S. Embassy, a consular officer visits an arrested U.S. citizen as soon as possible after being notified by Costa Rican authorities to ascertain the arrestee’s physical well-being and conditions of arrest, provide information on legal procedures, including a list of attorneys, and, if the prisoner wishes, notify family or friends. However, consular officers can't act as attorneys or legal representatives nor affect the release of arrested American citizens.

" If you are arrested, insist that the authorities notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. They are obligated to notify a U.S. consular officer of your arrest unless you ask that they not do so," said the Embassy in its statement.

In limited circumstances, consular officers can also serve as liaison between the person and his/her family and provide them with a list of local attorneys. "We can also assist the transfer of funds from your family or friends to pay attorneys’ fees and for your upkeep while incarcerated. If you are imprisoned for a lengthy period, a consular officer will visit you periodically, at least once every three to four months," added the Embassy.

Prostitution in Costa Rica is legal because no law in the Penal Code explicitly establishes that sexual activity is illegal. However, many of the activities related to prostitution are established in the Penal Code as illegal, as a prohibition to promote what is known as pandering.

According to the Costa Rican Law Against Sexual Exploitation, Article No.169 establishes that whoever promotes the prostitution of persons of any sex or induces them to exercise it or keeps them in it or recruits them for that purpose, will be punished with the penalty imprisonment from two to five years. The same penalty shall be imposed on whoever keeps another person in sex work.

The judicial agents call on the population to report any suspicion of pimping to the confidential line 800-8000-645. Their bilingual agents can answer calls in English or Spanish.

What have you heard about human trafficking activities in your community?  We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to

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