TORONTO–Cuba’s tourist office in Canada and a Cayo Coco hotel acknowledge two Canadians were detained at the seaside resort last week against their will.
Canada’s foreign affairs department confirmed to Global News on Friday that “two Canadian citizens … were detained in Cuba” but would not discuss specifics of the case.
“In Cuba, when you break, you have to pay, that is the law,” said Karen Puebla, with the Cuba Tourist Board based in Toronto.
She was referring to the case of Katharine Foran, 26, and Adam Babuik, 30, who spent two extra days at the Hotel Playa Coco where they were guests of the all-inclusive, three-and-a-half star resort.
Global News reported last week that the couple described being virtually held “hostage” at the hotel under constant security watch after they attempted to check out.
The couple admits they were intoxicated during their all-inclusive vacation and as a result, broke part of a light fixture in their room and damaged a wall in another.
A Canadian tourist staying at the hotel at the same time, who asked not to be identified, said she saw Foran dump a drink on Babuik’s head in the main bar.
“This was unacceptable…and downright disrespectful to the staff and facilities,” the woman wrote in an email to Global News, saying any detainment was the couple’s own fault.
Foran said she and Babuik offered to pay the $400 demanded by the hotel but said her Vancity Visa credit card would not function, although they say they had sufficient credit to cover the damage charges. However, when the couple could not pay, they were not allowed to leave the hotel.
“When you travel to any country where the rule of law isn’t respected, you are always taking a chance,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman, who has represented clients imprisoned in Cuba for a variety of reasons.
“Fortunately, it was only two days; I’m aware of a lot of other instances where people have been confronted with a lot more serious problems,” Waldman said.
In an email in Spanish from the hotel’s general manager to the tourist board, Otoniel Riverond Portela said the Canadians also stole alcohol from the beer garden and that at various times, the Canadians’ behavior was aggressive.
Riverond Portela acknowledged the the couple had agreed to pay for damages.
Reached in Vancouver Monday, Foran focused on the trauma associated with being prevented from contacting her family or the Canadian Embassy in Havana during the two-day detention.
“That’s a violation of international law under the Geneva Convention,” said Waldman. “You are supposed to be able to call your embassy and get counsel or assistance.”
Foran said family members were still upset at their temporary disappearance. Her mother filed a missing person’s report with the Vancouver Police Department.
Foran and Babuik are considering pursuing a complaint with the Department of Foreign Affairs of their treatment at the hotel in Cuba.