They go there in huge numbers and keep the economy afloat with their dollars.
About one million of them went there last year, to enjoy the sunshine, the turquoise sea, the white sands, the ruins, the mojitos, and bargain-basement whores, some of whom are children.
They don’t give a damn about the people who live there, enslaved, or about the apartheid system that prevents those slaves from enjoying the most basic rights, amenities, and products. And they couldn’t care less about the fact that there are three separate castes on the island: elite natives (who enslave 99% of the population), subaltern natives (the 99%), and tourists.
They LOVE the place. Some of them can’t get enough of it. Some travel there several times a year. When they go there they get to live like the elite natives.
But, aw shucks, the Canadian playground of Cuba does have some drawbacks. One of them is the Castro traffic lottery.
Get involved in a traffic accident and suddenly, wham, the apartheid you’ve been enjoying — which has given you all sorts of privileges forbidden to the natives — vanishes in the wink of an eye.
All of a sudden you are thrown into the justice system that keeps the natives oppressed. Even worse, since you have dollars in some bank account back home, you find yourself in a fourth caste: tourists who can be subjected to extortion.
The native elites prevent you from going home, and insist that you pay for your room and board while they twiddle their thumbs and do nothing to bring your simple traffic case to court. The days turn into weeks, and the weeks into months, and, when they finally bring you to court, you’ll be found guilty of something, and the months can then turn into years. Whether or not you serve that five- or ten-year sentence depends, of course, on how much your loved ones or your government is willing to pay for your release.
The odds against this happening are steep, as in any lottery. It only happens to one out of every few tens of thousands of Canadians, but if you are that one, you’d better start praying, eh?
And when it does happen, the Canadian press is always surprised. And the tour companies are always ready to provide a free flight home, no matter how many months or years later (because they wouldn’t want any bad press for doing business with such a country). And no one up there in the Great White North ever admits that the vacation playground is actually a totalitarian regime run by pirates.
Surprise, eh? It’s yer lucky day, hoser. You’ve just hit the apartheid jackpot, El Premio Flaco: now you know what it’s like to be a Cuban.
Canadian stuck in Castrogonia after minor traffic accident
He loves the place, but he can’t get out of it fast enough.
Winnipegger Ted Barnett has been to Varadero, Cuba, three times and went back again Jan. 11.
But a crash on a rented moped has put a dent in his return home.
Instead of a week-long stay, Barnett, 60, has been stuck in Cuba nearly seven weeks, paying an ever-increasing hotel bill at the resort he booked.
Barnett hit a pedestrian while driving the vehicle. It broke the woman’s leg. He said it’s rocked him to his core.
“I’ve never hurt anyone,” he said. “I’ve never been in that type of a situation. I just felt terrible.”
Barnett said he’s been told he won’t face any charges, but the police investigation has taken weeks to complete, and Barnett has been told he is not allowed to go home.
“I’m being detained here, no doubt about it,” he said. “Have I been terrified about that? Yes.”
Barnett told CBC his MTS international texting plan has been his lifeline to the outside world. But he’s desperate to return home.
“Has my mind been wandering? Oh, yeah,” he said. “You think the worst possible thing is happening to you and I guess being told you can’t go home is pretty bad.”
An official with the department of foreign affairs would only say the Canadian officials are assisting a Canadian in the country.
“Canadian consular officials in Havana, Cuba are providing consular assistance to a Canadian citizen in Cuba and are in contact with local authorities on the matter,” said the spokesperson.
Sunwing Vacations, the travel agency Barnett booked his trip with, said it’s holding a seat for him on its next flight out of Varadero and on to Winnipeg, free of charge. A spokesperson said the agency is just waiting for the green light from authorities.
Barnett said he’s trying to be patient for just a while longer.
“It’s time to come home,” he said. “And everyone tells me that will happen. You just need to be patient.”