Cuba detains detectives from Britain
This diplomatic face-off has a few twists, too
By YVES COLON
The mystery is worthy of Graham Greene's novel Our Man in Havana.
Yet this updated version of the spy thriller is fact, not fiction.
More than two weeks ago, seven British private detectives were
custody in Cuba without explanation. The case has touched off a diplomatic
face-off between the United Kingdom and the communist island.
The British charge d'affaires in Cuba attempted to visit the detainees
the state security prison, but he was turned away albeit with assurances that
they were in good health and that he would be granted access within 48 hours.
The six men and one woman have been held for 16 days without access
diplomats, prompting Peter Hain, a Foreign Office minister in London, to summon
Cuba's chargé d'affaires, Oscar de los Reyes, to his office Wednesday for an
In a statement, Hain said he was dissatisfied with the Cuban government's
response to British demands for access to the detectives.
Greene's protagonist in the novel, a vacuum cleaner salesman named
Wormold, was a secret service agent in pre-revolutionary Havana who invented
armed forces movements and operations. The private detectives, according to
British press reports, were hired by the wife of a millionaire businessman living in
Panama who suspected her husband of infidelity. Some reports say the
millionaire is a Cuban national.
In an alleged violation of Cuban law, the detectives were apparently
high-tech surveillance equipment to monitor the husband.
Stephen Jakobi, a lawyer from Fair Trials Abroad, told the Times
of London that
the Cubans might suspect the private detectives of industrial espionage.
``I'm only speculating but I should imagine that's the area.''
Jakobi said. ``It's
obviously not an ordinary criminal matter, judging by the way the Cubans are
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque said Wednesday
authorities were still investigating ``and at the right moment we will provide an
extensive report on the situation.
``They are being investigated in Cuba as to what activities they
were carrying out
in the country,'' Pérez Roque told The Associated Press during a visit to
The case, meanwhile, has generated intense interest in Britain.
Telegraph warned readers that ``if the [seven] Britons have made the mistake of
crossing Castro, their fate is bleak. Cuba's jails are notoriously filthy and
overcrowded with everyone, from petty thieves to academics who spoke out
against the government. The Cuban prison guards are not known for their restraint
in maintaining order.''
Thousands of British citizens vacation in Cuba every year. Recently,
Britons were released from prison in Cuba after serving two years on a 15-year
sentence for drug trafficking.
May Lodge, the mother of one of the detectives said on Wednesday:
``I want my
Her son, Ken Lodge, 53, has run a London-based detective agency
for more than
20 years, according to British officials. May Lodge said her son told her he would
be gone for a couple of weeks and not to worry about him before he left for Cuba
earlier this month.
According to reports, the other detainees include London resident
Derek Pitt from Hertfordshire, two men identified only as Will Smart and Mike,
and the latter's girlfriend.
Hain called the case bizarre, saying ``it is a shame, because
increasingly close and friendly relations with Cuba.''