[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Canadian Tourist Nightmare in Cuba

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Canadian Tourist Nightmare in Cuba

We read lots of stories about Canadian and Europeans tourists having a wonderful time in Cuba, while the average Cuban stuggles to get by each day.

But here's an example of a good time in the fun n' sun of Cuba gone awry. In today's El Nuevo Herald, Wilfredo Cancio Isla describes the nightmare experienced by a native Cuban and Canadian citizen on a trip to Cuba back in February. The translated article follows:
Trip of Canadian Ends in a Nightmare

A vacation to Cuba ended up as a traumatic experience for Canadian citizen Onelia ' ' Nely' ' Ross, who's still looking for explanations following her five days of arrest in a jail on the island. The Canadian government has requested through the International Trade Canada (ITC) , its exterior affairs department, an explanation from Havana on what occurred, after Ross made denounced the physical abuses she suffered during her detention.

' ' They were five days of terror'', related Ross in interview with El Nuevo Herald. `` Suddenly I saw myself struck and humiliated in jail, and felt the same fear when I left Cuba for the first time''. The woman of 48 years of age, wife of a Canadian diplomat and resident of Ottawa since 1978, decided to accompany a pair of Cuban friends in a a tourist visit to Holguín province, in eastern Cuba. The three flew on a Cubana de Aviation flight from Montreal to Holguín on the 6th of February and everything seemed set for a splendid stay, far from the inclement Canadian winter.

But after the landing in the Holguín airport, Ross saw her escapade to the tropics turn into a cruel nightmare. The Cuban authorities told her that she was trying to enter the country illegally and that she had to return immediately to Canada. ' ' It was absurd'', remembered Ross. "I visited the Cuban embassy in Ottawa on the 3rd of February to qualify my Cuban passport, and to qualify it, and the consul, Carmen E. Peterssen, treated me like always, she made me a receipt for the payment of $160 and everything was ready to go."

But the immigration employees in Holguín considered that there was an error in the date printed in the passport, and then denied her access to the rest of Cuban territory. In the middle of a confrontation that resulted, four officials came in and removed Ross from the room by force. ' ' I began to shout so that the other foreigners would realize what was occurring', she said.
They started to strike me and two uniformed women began to treat in a vulgar fashion. I then threw myself on the floor in order to defend myself."

Ross was not allowed to drink water or use the restroom for five hours. At 11 p.m. she was transferred by airplane to Havana to be processed. Ross was imprisoned for five days before being able to leave the island. The $500 that she took for vacation were retained by officials, and she also had pay for all ' ' services received' ': $16 daily for the jail stay, $12 for the food that she never ate, and $42 for round trip transportation to the airport.

Thanks to her accompanying Cuban friends who called the Canadian Embassy in Havana, consul Nathalie Garon visited her in the prison. Ross finally returned to Ottawa on the 10th of February. Garon declined to speak on the case and transfered questions from El Nuevo Herald to the ITC public affairs office. ' 'The Canadian government presented Mrs. Ross' complaints of physical mistreatment to the Cuban government by means of a diplomatic note", said ITC spokesperson Cloé Rodrigue. The employee declined to disclose the exact date and content of the note, or if she had received a response. The Cuban embassy in Ottawa did not respond to El Nuevo Herald's messages.

Mexican citizen Eva Badillo, resident of Campeche, was in the jail at the same time as Ross, and described her experience: ''Two hours after I entered the jail, Nely arrived with bruises in her arms and legs". Badillo was being detained for suspicions of false marriage with a Cuban citizen.

Badillo attributes her release to Ross, who passed along the information to the Mexican embassy after visiting Garon. ' ' I am still recovering from this traumá', expressed Ross, who directs an accounting firm in Ottawa. `` I did not emigrate for political reasons nor never have been in politics outside Cuba; all this is part of the abuses that exist there to extort Cuban expatriates.

Ross is a graduate of Economy and Humanities in the University of Ottawa. This was her third trip to Cuba since 1978, the previous two visits were for family reasons.

"One feels violated in so many ways'', expressed Ross during the interview in Miami. `` I want the world to find out about the robberies and the beatings, starting with the many Canadians that see Cuba as a paradise".

Canada is the leading tourist market in Cuba, with 250.000 visitors per year and regular flights from 15 Canadian cities with seven destinations on the island.
It's unfortunate that Ross had to go through what she did, but it was a hard lesson learned about the cruel injustice which is Cuba today. I hope her experiences and message resonates with Cuba-loving Canadians.

The original article in Spanish can be found here.


Blogger The Universal Spectator said...

I hate to say this but, ¡me alegro! They have been complicit with the regime since the beginning and now, maybe, they'll see just who they are dealing with...

6:25 PM, June 22, 2005  
Blogger Robert said...

That thought did cross my mind, although she wasn't the type to take regular vacation trips to Cuba.

Still, I hope others out there pay attention, especially Cuban exiles outside the US who entertain thoughts of going back.

8:09 PM, June 22, 2005  
Anonymous Songuacassal said...

awwww... You mean the commies aren't really all that nice... even to tourists??? awwww... poor tourists... how dare they come to Cuba and not live as Cubans taking advantage of the misery on the island in order to have a Daquiri. I wish no harm to anyone, but it's about time this kind of thing comes to light. Thanks for the post Robert

9:27 AM, June 23, 2005  

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