MONTREAL — The family of a Montreal woman found dead Tuesday on a beach in Cuba wants answers about the circumstances surrounding her violent death.
Global Affairs Canada confirmed Wednesday the death of 52-year-old Antoinette Traboulsi in Varadero was a homicide.
Her cousin, Sami Soussa, described her as an energetic woman who loved music, dancing and taking photos for her social media accounts, on which she identified herself by the nickname "Angie."
"We called her the dynamite of the family, she's full of energy, she loved her life, she loved her kids," Soussa said Thursday in an interview. He was making arrangements to have her body returned.
"Whenever we had family gatherings, she's always dancing, putting on music and encouraging people to dance, she was full of life."
Traboulsi worked as a hygiene and sanitation attendant at Montreal's Sacre-Coeur hospital. She'd fallen in love with Cuba, a country she visited many times.
"She'd go once or twice a year, she fell in love with the culture, Latin music, dancing, she was feeling young again," Soussa said. "Whenever she had time off, she booked some vacation to go to Cuba."
Soussa said Traboulsi arrived in the country last Friday, Nov. 13, and didn't show up for a scheduled meeting with a friend Saturday evening. He said his cousin rented a room at Casa Gladys in Varadero, and said he didn't believe it was her first time staying there.
A day after arrival, she went to the beach, uploading videos and photos to social media. "Saturday morning she spoke to her mother by Facebook messenger and posted a video to her social media on the beach around 11:20 a.m.," Soussa said. It would be the last time the family had contact with her.
The evening of Nov. 14, she was supposed to join a Cuban friend with whom she regularly met, but Traboulsi never showed. Soussa said his cousin's friend alerted authorities.
Police waited 48 hours in the hope Traboulsi would turn up and called the friend back on Tuesday to see if she had heard from the missing Montrealer. Authorities searched Traboulsi's rented room, where they found her personal effects. They found her body on the beach Tuesday afternoon.
"I had confirmation today saying that she is indeed my cousin with indications that she was murdered," Soussa said, regarding information received from consular officials. "She was buried in the sand and bore traces of violence."
In an email, Global Affairs Canada said it offered its "deepest condolences to the family and friends of the murdered Canadian citizen in Cuba," adding consular support is being provided to the family. The department said it was in touch with local authorities.
Soussa said his cousin had never expressed any concerns about her safety in the Caribbean country. "For her, going there at least twice a year, she felt really safe going there and she is a very responsible woman so she wouldn't jeopardize her safety," Soussa said.
Her personal belongings were sent to Havana, but it's unclear if anything was missing, he said.
The family said it hadn't received much credible information about how she died. "We want to know what happened, I'm at a loss for words how something like this could happen to a 52-year-old woman," Soussa said.
Shocked work colleagues posted their condolences on social media as did the union representing workers at the hospital, offering psychological help to colleagues given the tragic circumstances surrounding her death.
Traboulsi is survived by three daughters and a son.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2020.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press