Wednesday, March 01, 2006

How castro treats his "friends"

A while back I posted about a Canadian tourist who was detained after he got in a scuffle with a Cuban masseur who fondled his wife. Now this story comes courtesy of Canada Free Press.

Castro's Cuba, shipwrecks and gold

Salvaging sunken treasure takes precedence over human life in Cuba

By Judi McLeod
Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Being lost at sea in the coastal waters of Castro’s Cuba is the wrong place to be. The communist regime of Fidel Castro leaves the shipwrecked to the mercy of sharks and rogue waves.

Stranded in Cuba for almost two weeks after their shipwreck, a Canadian couple made a tearful reunion with family members at Toronto’s Pearson Airport on Saturday.

Kelly Aitchison and husband, Rob, were sailing a 25-metre yacht, the Downtown, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. From St. Martin, when for reasons unknown, the yacht sank about three kilometers off the coast of Cayo Coco, along Cuba’s northern shore, on Feb. 13.

Waiting hours for a promised rescue that never came from Cuban officials, the seafaring couple and two crewmembers finally made their way to the beach in a dingy. On their arrival, the Canadians were promptly picked up by Cuban officials, who seized their passports and refused to let them leave the country.

Officials wanted assurance that the boat owner’s insurance would cover the cost of salvaging the boat and demanded the Aitchisons retain a lawyer. Under that kind of pressure, the couple signed a contract with a law firm and booked a flight out of Cuba on the weekend.

"It was harrowing but we got out," Aitchison said of the misadventure.

Vowing to never return there herself, she said she would not recommend Cuba to travelers.

Meanwhile, lost at sea for more than a month after their boat engine failed, a couple from the Pacific Island of Kiribati is finally flying home today (March 1).

"The story of how this couple survived more than a month at sea is miraculous," said Continental Micronesia staff vice president of marketing and sales Walter Dias. (eTNTravelWireNews). "It’s also a heartwarming story of the warmth and hospitality of the Pacific Islanders who took this couple in. Being part of this tradition of hospitality in the islands is why we wanted to help them," said Dias.

The couple is leaving Chuuk on their homeward journey with complimentary air travel, courtesy of Continental Micronesia.

Continental Micronesia is headquartered in Guam and operates a Pacific hub from the A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport.

On Dec. 30, 2005, the couple took their 19-foot wooden boat with a 40 h.p. outboard motor from Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati, to an outer island to pick up a relative. But just as they were a few miles way from their relative’s island, the outboard motor died. Things got more worrisome when trade winds pushed them far away from land. The Kiribati government called a search and rescue operation, but it was not successful and hopes for the couples’ survival began to wane.

The couple drifted for more than a month on open water, ending almost two thousand kilometers away from their home country of Kiribati. Mercifully, a fishing vessel’s helicopter pilot spotted the wooden boat close to the island of Kapingamarangi, south of Pohnpei. The chopper picked up the couple and brought them back to the mother ship, which in turn took them to Chuuk.

Part of this story is the several good Samaritans who nursed the couple back to health on the island of Chuuk.

The joy of the couples’ 10-year-old son, who has been waiting in Tarawas since his parents left last year, will be one for the books.

The difference between Pacific Island shipwrecks and Cuba’s couldn’t be more distinguished. Communist Cuba, only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, is in the treasure salvaging business in a big way. Cuba is in the business of salvaging coin from sunken Spanish galleons, and on the hunt for the fabled sunken city of Atlantis with the help of Soviet-born engineer Pauline Zelitsky, the president of the Canadian-based company Advanced Digital Communications (ADC) and not the salvaging of human life.

Boaters beware!

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