Showing posts from June, 2013

U.S. warns of driving risks in Cuba

Two Americans jailed, five others cannot leave island, U.S. government says.    It's not just Canadian visitors finding themselves in trouble with Cuban authorities because of traffic accidents on the island.   According to the United States diplomatic mission in Havana, accidents involving U.S. citizens are on the rise. Two Americans were jailed recently because of driving offences, two others are under house arrest and three have been told they cannot leave Cuba, presumably while investigations continue.    “We urge you to take extra safety precautions when driving to avoid problems during your stay in Cuba,” the mission warned Friday. See a Miami Herald report here and read this traffic and road safety advisory from the U.S. State Department.    Canada remains the largest source of visitors to Cuba, but an increasing number of Americans are taking advantage of relaxed restrictions on travel to the island. Many are Cuban-American who would be more likely to take the wh

Innocent as charged

   Though a regular visitor to Cuba, Elie Raffoul says he was unaware of the risks of driving on the island. He's certainly aware of them now (see previous post ).    Canada's Foreign Affairs department has long advised its citizens not to drive in Cuba. Conditions there can be hazardous, it warns . Road signs are scarce, few routes are lit and "bicycles, pedestrians and horse-drawn carts use the middle of the road and do not readily give way to oncoming vehicles."    All this can be true. But the Foreign Affairs website errs when it states that "the onus is on the driver (charged after an accident) to prove innocence" As I've written here before , Cuba is no different than many other countries in requiring that the burden of proof rest with the prosecution, not the defendant.    How well this is applied in the Cuban court system (or indeed, the courts of other countries) could be another matter. Still, any discussion about the risks of foreign trave

Another driver detained

In Cuba, prepare to encounter a broad variety of fellow road-users.       ELIE RAFFOUL , a 41-year-old from Canada, appears to be the latest visitor to to learn about the potentially severe consequences of getting into a car accident in Cuba.    The building contractor from Ottawa says authorities prevented him from leaving the island for nearly two weeks after his rental car collided with a motorcycle March 23 near the Cayo Santa Maria resort area on Cuba's north coast.    Two weeks may not sound long compared with the three-month detainment of another Canadian, Cody LeCompte, in 2010, or the full year a woman identified only as "Anne," also from Canada, says she was forced to spend in Cuba after a February 2008 accident.    But as Raffoul told Ottawa Citizen columnist Hugh Adami , the uncertainty about what was happening and how long he would have to remain on the island left him shaken.    "I was scared. I was so scared," said Raffoul.    He said

Slide With The Tide

   Where I grew up, grabbing the bumper of a passing car and hitching a ride along a snow-packed street was considered great, if rather risky, sport. Not half as risky, however, as a Havana hobby reported by Along the Malecón . No snow? Cubans will still find a way.

He met a Čezeta

Photographed by Ren Bostelaar. For more on the  Čezeta, see Another Scooter Sighting .