Where Cody LeCompte went wrong

  It seems that detained tourists in Cuba are put up in beach resorts while the island’s wheels of justice grind along like the gearbox in a Russian tractor.
  Cody LeCompte, a 19-year-old from Simcoe, Ontario, has been forbidden from leaving the island since an April traffic accident in which the rental Hyundai Accent he was driving (hmmm, sounds familiar) collided with a dump truck. LeCompte and his three passengers were injured, and all spent time in hospital.
  Since then, LeCompte has been staying at a resort in Santa Lucia with his uncle. It's not clear who’s paying the bills.
Although the family insists the other driver was at fault, a Cuban court this week apparently decided that LeCompte must stand trial. His mother told reporters she’s heard the trial may not take place for six months to one year.
  Canada’s Foreign Affairs department says traffic accidents “are a frequent cause of arrest and detention of Canadians in Cuba” -- although if that’s the case, such incidents haven’t been getting much publicity until now.
In a long-standing advisory on its website, Foreign Affairs notes that accidents resulting in death or injury are treated as crimes, and the onus is on the driver to prove innocence. Not surprisingly, the department suggests Canadians avoid driving in Cuba.
   The press coverage hasn’t mentioned one aspect of this case that might explain why Cuba is being especially heavy-handed with young Cody.
   He shouldn't have been at the wheel. In Cuba, as in many places, you must be at least 21 to drive a rental car. Some of the island's rental agencies (all government-owned) demand that drivers be at least 25, with three years of experience, or even 30 to take out certain luxury cars.
  Certainly the LeComptes wish they had avoided driving in Cuba.
  They were en route to Camegüey, a city near the centre of the island, when they were hit broadside.
“The road conditions were horrific. There were potholes everywhere,” LeCompte’s mother told the Toronto Star. “There’s no intersection, no stop sign, no traffic light. Animals were all over the place. We slowed down at all intersections, then came the big dump truck that didn’t brake.”
  I still wonder who’s paying for the resort.

(This post revised on July 18, 2010.)

See: My question, answered or click the "newer post" button, below, for several updates on the Lecompte case.

 See: 10 Tips for Driving in Cuba.


TonyR said…
A few years ago when I was spending a lot of time in Havana, I got to know a woman who worked at the Canadian Embassy. She advised me never to drive in Cuba, as this kind of thing happens frequently in Cuba.
Any foreigner is guilty until proven innocent. Since that time, I have rented a few times, but usually get a Cuban friend to drive the rental, which is legal (i think) as long as they are registered as a driver with the rental company. Or just hire a cuban driver and car.
Never had any problems with police.
Anonymous said…
"Cuba forbids its citizens from travelling with foreigners in rental cars."

Not true, amigo mio.
There are restrictions on foreigners paying for travel in cars with yellow ("particular") plates, but Cuban citizens are free to travel in rental cars - even as hitch-hikers.
How do I know? Married to a Cuban citizen, 50+ trips there, 25+ years driving experience there...

J Carson
Caristas said…
Thanks, J. Carson. That was my error, and I've updated the post to remove that passage. And Tony, this of course means you are correct -- it is legal to have a Cuban friend drive your rental. My apologies to anyone misled by the original post.

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