Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ontario teen's Cuban ordeal to end

Ontario teen's Cuban ordeal to end

CAMAGUEY, Cuba - Cody LeCompte's tropical island nightmare has finally
come to an end.

The Simcoe, Ont., teen, his mom Danette, and his uncle, Gary Parmenter,
attended a dramatic meeting at a police station here Wednesday where
they learned the wheels have been set in motion for Cody's release, QMI
Agency has learned.

"We don't want to keep you here any longer," Cuban officials told the
LeCompte family through their lawyer.

After being trapped in the communist country for three months, the
emphatic words were music to Cody's long-suffering ears.

The 19-year-old's life has been in limbo since since April when he was
involved in a nasty crash while driving a rental car, an accident he
maintains was not his fault.

Cody has never been charged with anything, yet he has lived in fear
during his detention in Cuba because he was told he faces up to
three-years in prison.

After months of facing stonewalling Cuban and Canadian officials,
LeCompte and his family, were stunned when authorities told them he
should soon be permitted to leave the country.

"I saw a real smile on his face for the first time in a long while," the
teen's mother said.

"This is the first day in three months that I've been able to breathe,"
added Danette, who cried upon hearing the news. "We're almost to the
finish line."

That could come as early as next week.

"We are cautiously optimistic we will be able to repatriate Cody on
Tuesday," said his uncle, Gary Parmenter.

In an exclusive interview with QMI Agency moments after a tentative deal
was worked out with Cuban authorities, Cody was also emotional as he
thought about the prospect of finally going home.

"I am very surprised," he said. "I wasn't expecting this."

The relieved teen thanked the Canadian government for getting involved
in the case.

And Cody also expressed his gratitude to the thousands of Canadians
across the country who have been "so supportive."

"It's nice to know that people care," he said.

After 13-weeks of being trapped at a Cuban resort as police investigated
a car crash, the teen's family posted $2,000 bail Wednesday that should
allow him leave.

"In exchange for promising to appear at a future trial date, if need be,
they agreed release Cody," Parmenter, said.

Parmenter said after weeks of nothing happening, things suddenly started
to move Wednesday on the heels of the Canadian government issuing a news
release indicating holding Cody any longer could affect tourism.

The deal to pay the bail was worked out in the town of Minas, about 30
minutes from the Gran Club resort in Santa Lucia, where Cody has been

"It's a win-win for both governments." said Parmenter "They both get to
save face."

The meeting came after comments made in Ottawa by Peter Kent, Minister
of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas), who hinted holding a Canadian
for this long could have repercussions on Canadians deciding on Cuba as
a vacation destination.

Parmenter said Cuban officials have indicated they will now work with
the family to get Cody on the plane Tuesday.

There is, however, one more hurdle to clear - the cost of repairing the
damage to the truck that allegedly broadsided the Hyundai Accent Cody
was driving.

Cuban officials want to check with the driver to see if he expects the
family to cover the estimated $500 in repairs.

No problem, says the family: "It would cost us a lot more than that to
keep Cody here so I don't foresee it as an issue," said Parmenter.

Danette said although she wishes the federal government had stepped in
sooner, she's happy they finally "came through."

She's not ready just yet to think about the possibility of Cody having
to return to the Communist country for a potential trial or about the
$30,000 of debt she's accumulated during this ordeal.

"I'm just focused on getting my son back on Canadian soil," she said.
"Nothing else matters right now."

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