by Kim Hundevadt
Danish newspaper: Jyllands-Posten
September 28, 1997 (Translation)
Cuba has been recognized as a travel destination, since four of the largest charter companies have gone together by direct flight, to Havana. But several dramatic episodes have created doubt about tourist safety in Cuba. First came the 26 year old Dane who was shot and killed by Cuban soldiers in the street. And the latest, a series of bombing attempts aimed directly at the heart of the popular tourist destination. The travel industry continues to believe however, that Cuba has a future as a vacation paradise.
On March 28, 1997 Joachim Lovschall ate a dinner with white wine in the little restaurant called Aladin, on 21st street in Havana. From there he went to the Revolutionary Plaza and bought a ticket to the Cuban National Theater.
After the performance he went into the theater's bar, Cafe Cantate, and met Caroline and Jouni, two young Swedes, who had become a part of his new circle of friends in Havana. They drank a couple of beers each, but hurried up because Joachim did not like the music.
At 23:30, they said good bye to each other on the sidewalk in front of Cafe Cantate. The Swedes never saw Joachim again.
Four days later, on April 1, they went to the police in order to inform them about the 26 year old missing Danish person. Joachim had not returned back to the private room he had rented from the Garcia Llanes family. Both his Cuban landlord and his two Swedish friends were worried.
On April 4, in the evening, they were called to the legal medical institute in Havana, where they were able to identify the corpse of Joachim Lovschall.
A day and a half later, the Danish authorities and the next of kin, at home in Denmark, were notified.
In the meantime, over the last 6 months, Joachim Lovschall's parents, assisted by their own lawyer and by the Danish Foreign Ministry, have attempted to get an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the killing of the young market economist, who was traveling to Cuba in order to learn Spanish at the university and to experience the country as a tourist.
According to the Cuban inquiry, around 23:30, a person matching Joachim Lovschall's description was in a bar named Segundo Dragon d'Oro. The bar lies in the hopeless part of town, around the Revolutionary Plaza which is dominated by ministry and other official buildings of harsh concrete architecture, and lies empty in the nighttime.
At 2:45 he left the bar, after becoming intoxicated. Around 20 minutes later, he was walking down the Avenue Territorial, behind the Defense Ministry.
Joachim Lovschall walked, according to the Cuban authorities, first on the sidewalk that lies opposite the Ministry. Midway he crossed over to the other sidewalk, considered to be a military area, though it is not blocked off.
The Cubans have explained that Joachim Lovschall was shouted at by two armed guards, who in addition fired warning shots, which he did not react to. Therefore, one guard shot from the hip with an AK-47 rifle. The first shot hit Joachim in the stomach and got him to crumble down.
The second shot hit slanting down the left side of the neck.
The Cuban authorities estimate that Joachim Lovschall died of blood loss at 3:06.
As not a word was mentioned for more than 8 days, before the Danish Foreign Ministry received word about the killing, the Cubans gave the excuse that Joachim Lovschall did not have any papers on him.
Denmark's ambassador in Mexico, Martin Kofod, traveled immediately to Havana to get clarification of the circumstances.
After 4 days of meetings and investigations, Martin Kofod concluded in a letter that neither barricades nor signs clearly state that the sidewalk in question is a military area. He was astonished as well over the severe methods used by the soldiers and said: "I will reiterate, that to me it is completely incomprehensible that it was not possible to employ methods other than `shoot to kill', in a situation like this," Martin Kofod wrote in his letter.
The Lovschall family's lawyer, Bent Nielsen, said in a Danish newspaper, that as he understands it, one can call this a clear case of execution of Joachim Lovschall.
Bent Nielsen has in his possession a video from the autopsy, and he has gotten a Danish forensic medicine specialist, Dr. Markil Gregersen, to examine it: "It appears obvious and is clearly evident that the soldiers did not attempt to seize and restrain Joachim Lovschall. If so, there would have been signs of a struggle. Nor did they attempt to shoot at his legs. In this case, two bullets were fired directly at the trunk and the head, from a distance of less than two meters (6 feet). Behind the shooting there must lie a reason to kill," said Bent Nielsen.
According to Joachim's two Swedish friends, he had about 80-100 dollars in his wallet, the night he was shot. This money disappeared. Because of this, common robbery is one of several theories.
"On the other hand, the money could have been stolen several days after the killing. I am perhaps more inclined to the opinion that this is a case of poorly trained soldiers who reacted in panic. Also, they most certainly used shooting regulations that are not tolerated in the daytime, out in the open in the street. Therefore, perhaps their superiors should be blamed. Under all circumstances, we must demand that the Cubans carry out a thorough investigation, find out what wrongs were committed, and punish those who are guilty," said Bent Nielsen.
Denmark has officially protested. This protest took place formally in the form of a letter which was sent to the Cuban government, at the beginning of August. "In it we ask the Cubans a series of critical questions. More specifically, we have criticized the lack of barricades at the military area. We have also written, that we find it absolutely incomprehensible that it was necessary to shoot directly at the trunk of the body, to restrain Joachim Lovschall," said Department Director, Nina Jaquet, of the Danish Foreign Ministry.
Simultaneously with the protest to Cuba, the Foreign Ministry also sent a travel directive to the Danish travel industry, regarding travel to Cuba. The directive urges Danish tourists to keep at a safe distance from all military areas, and it underlines that these are not always effectively marked off. "People who do not immediately obey and react correctly to the orders from Cuban military guards ... risk being shot without further warning," the travel directive says.
Nina Jaquet said that in addition to this, the Foreign Ministry presented Joachim Lovschall's case at the EU Community meeting of consulate matters. "We urged the other EU nations to add information to their travel instructions to Cuba. Germany has already done so, and other countries considered this immediately," said Nina Jaquet.
For the Danish travel industry, this case comes at the worst possible moment. Larsen Travel was one of the first agencies to have success in sending charter flights to Cuba. In June, the four largest travel agencies decided to jointly add Cuba as a new destination. Tjaereborg, Spies, Ving and Star Tours together use a DC 10 from Premiair, which flies directly from Copenhagen to Havana every other Friday. This means that Cuba, which for many years was reserved for a small crowd of young and adventurous backpacking tourists, has been recognized as a charter, travel destination resort.
"Interest in Cuba has become very big and trips are sold out a long time in advance," said Administrative Director, H. P. Anderson, of Tjaereborg agency. Other agencies give similar reports. If Cuba can maintain its good reputation, more than 5,000 Danish charter guests will visit the country within the next year.
Joachim Lovschall's family and friends accuse the charter industry of minimizing the new travel directive - out of fear that it will miss out on sales of trips to Cuba. Jesper Sorensen, a former schoolmate and best friend, said that he inquired within a number of travel agencies about the conditions in Cuba. They all replied that there are no problems with safety, and that the Dane who was killed was just a `drunken idiot' who had gone to a military base, in the middle of the night.
Joachim's father, Export Executive Christian Lovschall, is outraged at the manner in which the charter agencies continue to market Cuba as an ideal vacation paradise. "It is irresponsible and shows that it is only what profits, that matters," believes Christian Lovschall. He has received information from various sources, that also a Brazilian, a Bulgarian, a Mexican and the latest, a Colombian tourist, have been killed by Cuban soldiers under similar circumstances.
The travel agencies said that their clients get a thorough orientation when they arrive at their accommodations in Cuba. However, the travel directive is not mentioned when the clients buy their tickets. "Ideally, perhaps we ought to mention it, but in that case we could do nothing but refrain from selling tickets. And that after all is not our business," said Sales Director Stig Elling, from Star Tour. He added that the killing of Joachim Lovschall is a tragic, but isolated incident that could happen anywhere in the world, including Cuba.
"Star Tours clients are very pleased with the new destination to Cuba," said Stig Elling. Both Star Tour and the other charter agencies have increased attention about travel to Cuba nevertheless, after a series of bomb explosions in the heart of Cuban tourist destinations.
On September 4, three and possibly as many as nine hotels and restaurants in Havana were hit by explosions which took the life of a 32 year old Italian tourist. No one has claimed responsibility, but presumably anti-Castro groups based in USA are behind the bombings. The aim is to destroy Cuba's economy by paralyzing its tourism, which has had strong growth over the last couple of years and now brings in income of more than one billion dollars a year.
"Of course, the bombs mean that we follow the situation in Cuba very closely. But we do not think, at the present time, that there are grounds for a drastic reaction that would close the travel destination," said Larsen Rejsers Administrative Director, Jens Veino. "There are explosions all over the world, most recently in Stockholm and Cairo. If we said we will not travel where bombs occur, then gradually we would only have places in Denmark left as destinations. Therefore, we try to avoid reacting before it is necessary," he added.
The probability that people would experience anything dramatic on a vacation to Cuba is very small, maintains Arthur Monsted, whose company Monsted Security Management advises companies and organizations about safety, in connection with travel to foreign countries. "On the other hand, taking into consideration the situation as it is for the time being, one cannot totally ignore the possible risks. There is no doubt about the fact that the bombings in Cuba are directed at high profile tourist destinations," he believes. "For me personally, I would certainly go some other place. When I am on vacation, I generally like to relax and be quite carefree, totally without worries - I would almost say that I like to be careless. A person fortunately can do this in many places. But I do not believe a person can do this in Cuba," said Arthur Monsted.
Terrorism occurs all over the world and is carried out by terrorists. In Cuba, inhumane and inexcusable acts of lawlessness and injustice are carried out, not by terrorists, but by the Cuban government.
Jyllands-Posten - (http://www.jp.dk/cgi-bin/dbpublish.dll?page=nyheder/forside)
Justice for Joachim