TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Steve Rupert is the owner of Cuba Travel Adventure and has been taking groups of tourists to that country for many years. Last week, however, all of his scheduled groups canceled their trips because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Rupert went to Havana anyway.
“I needed to go down there and pay my employees,” said Rupert. “I have many people who work for me in Cuba and they are going to starve if I don’t give them some money.”
While in Havana, he met up with an old friend.
Mark Fitzpatrick is an American who travels the world. He had flown to Cuba from Spain.
“I guess because he was tired of being in lock down in Spain. So when he got there, for a couple of days everything was fine and then on Friday, we hear the announcement that all foreigners are going to have to leave the country,” said Rupert.
For the first few days, everything seemed fine.
“While I was down there, I noticed it was life as normal. All the restaurants were open, the bars were open, it was like every other day,” Rupert said.
Then the Cuban government decided all foreigners had to leave.
Rupert was able to book a flight out of the country.
“I was the last one on. That flight was absolutely full and there were no flights after that,” he said.
Fitzpatrick decided to stay and it soon became a problem.
“Well, the government said that people who stay in private houses can’t stay there anymore, especially when they find out he’s just come from Spain, which is a hot spot,” Rupert said.
Now he is concerned about his friend’s safety.
“He got trapped. He was dodging the police for several days and he was staying with a friend of mine, Javier, and the police came over there and said you are going to have to quarantine in this hotel,” Rupert said.
He’s now lost contact with Fitzpatrick and is hopeful that somehow he was able to make it out of the country, but with limited communication, Rupert has not been able to confirm where his friend might be.