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 he was driving to Santa Clara and trying to pass a donkey cart and a motorcycle when an oncoming car forced him to return to his lane. The motorcycle moved to give him room but then clipped the car's side mirror, sending rider Leonid Aquila Leon to the ground. Raffoul said he had been travelling at about 50 km/h.
   Aquila was treated at hospital for cuts and bruises to his face and arm and sent home the same day, said Raffoul, who later visited the motorcyclist and, he says, gave him $450 Cdn., even though Aquila told him he wasn't asking for money.
   Asking why he couldn't take his scheduled flight home on March 24, Raffoul ran into the usual language barriers and bureaucratic fog. He said he was informed he had to wait until doctors could determine the severity of Aquila's injuries, in case he required compensation. Whether that was true or the Cuban police were simply investigating at their standard slow pace, he was eventually told he could leave.
   Raffoul said his additional expenses, including the bill for two more weeks at his resort, reached $3,500. That's a fair chunk, especially for someone who is self-employed. Again, however, it's well short of the nearly $30,000 spent by the family of Cody LeCompte, the Simcoe, Ont., teenager who was at wheel when his rental car collided with a dump truck, injuring LeCompte and three others.
   And Anne, the Eastern Ontario woman who spent a year on the island following an accident in which two Cubans were killed, said she was $40,000 in debt and had lost the hair salon business she operated from her home because of the experience.
   Raffoul has visited Cuba five times, but says he will never go back. No es de extrañar. But you, if you go to Cuba, should you drive there? These previous posts might offer some guidance.

Driving in Cuba Reconsidered

10 Tips for Driving in Cuba

Leave the Driving to Them

The long wait of the law? Investigations can drag on for weeks.


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