Calgary Herald July 28, 2010 2:08 AM
Cody LeCompte's story is a sad cautionary tale about visiting Cuba -- a
popular destination for Canadian tourists and one full of pitfalls of
the kind that trapped LeCompte.
The 19-year-old from Simcoe, Ont., is languishing at a Cuban resort,
forbidden to leave the country until a court decides whether he'll face
charges in a May traffic accident. LeCompte and his mother, Danette, say
they were broadsided by a dump truck at an intersection, but under Cuban
law, one is guilty until proven innocent.
The LeComptes need to take some responsibility for Cody's predicament.
The travel warnings on Canada's Foreign Affairs website are clear:
"Canadians should avoid driving in Cuba. . . . Under the Cuban judicial
system, charges are not laid until the investigation is complete, and
the accused may be jailed during the entire period of investigation."
Moreover, at 19, Cody should not have been driving a rental car, which
are permitted in Cuba only for drivers over 21.
Canadians make up the biggest group of tourists to Cuba. followed by
Italy and France, according to CBC. But that doesn't mean the 600,000
Canadians who visit Cuba annually will be accorded any courtesies by
Cuban law enforcement officials. Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary
to Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, has met with Cuban
officials about Cody, who could face a three-year prison term if
convicted. Canadian officials need to make it clear to Cuban officials
that Canadians will be very angry if an apparently upstanding young man
has his life ruined for getting in a traffic accident.
For Canadians, a word to the wise should be sufficient: heed the travel
advisories where ever you go. The presumption of innocence and rule of
law are cherished western rights many in the world don't enjoy."