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Cuba edgy after bombings

Tunnel

Man arrested for setting off firecrackers

July 23, 1997
Web posted at: 10:36 p.m. EDT (0236 GMT)

From Correspondent John Zarrella

HAVANA (CNN) -- In the wake of a recent series of small explosions in tourist hotels, Cuba has been on edge -- as a German man discovered the hard way this week.

When the unidentified man allegedly tossed firecrackers out the window while driving through a tunnel in Havana, Cuban authorities paid an early morning visit to Guanabo, the small town outside the city where he was staying. His room was searched and he was arrested.

CNN's John Zarrella reports
icon 2 min., 24 sec. VXtreme streaming video

Cuban sources tell CNN that they don't believe the firecracker incident is connected to minor explosions July 12 at two hotels that cater to international tourists, which injured three people.

But because those cases are still unsolved, even something as minor as a blast of firecrackers can cause rumors to spread like wildfire.

Speculation has been that the bombs were planted in an attempt to scare international tourists away from Cuba. The Cuban government has blamed exile groups based in the United States, who oppose the government of President Fidel Castro.

Tourists

According to government figures, tourism has surpassed sugar cane as the top source of income, bringing in almost $1.5 billion a year. Europeans and Latin Americans make up the bulk of the visitors.

Cuban officials say the bombings have not affected the tourist trade. Tourism Minister Eduardo Rodriguez de la Vega says they have "not had an important significance."

"We have met the expectations for June," he said. "The airlines that work with us are full. Our capacities for the summer are full."

But clearly, the Cuban government wants to catch those responsible before they strike again. If any tourists are seriously hurt, officials could be hard pressed to maintain their claim that Cuba is a safe haven for international visitors.

 
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