At the Antonio Maceo Hockey School in Havana ‘There is a Lot of Hunger’

From left to right, Yadira Miclín Galban, Marianela López and Daylin Suárez, the three hockey players who escaped to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. (Cortesía)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 May 2023 — On May 6, the plane where Cuban hockey players Daylin Suárez, Yadira Miclín Galban and Marianela López were traveling left Barcelona and landed on the island of Gran Canaria. Taking advantage of a “shopping” outing, the three athletes had managed to escape from their delegation, having received training in Spain from May 3 to 13 to attend the Central American Games in San Salvador, and they bought tickets to travel to the Canary Islands.

“Nothing was planned before, everything was improvised,” says Daylin Suárez from the city of Las Palmas, where she now lives with her two companions. “But I didn’t think twice. I thought about my future and my family, and I left everything behind for something better,” she says.

However, the trajectory has not been without difficulties. After applying for political asylum in Spain, she will not be able to meet with the immigration authorities until February 2024. In the meantime, she is taking the first steps towards her new life.

“I see a future in this country as an athlete, but we need to get our papers and start opening pathways,” acknowledges Suárez, who together with Miclín and López was received for a few days by a friend in Gran Canarias and now subsists thanks to the help of the Catholic Church and the Red Cross.

“We are together but working. We slept in the church that welcomed us and are moving forward,” she adds.

Getting to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria was a challenge, explains the hockey player to this newspaper. The delegation arrived in Barcelona on May 4 and immediately had their official passports withdrawn — with the visa to be legally in Spain — delivered by INDER (National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation). “We had the ordinary passports hidden, but that one didn’t have a visa,” says Suárez.

The day that they arrived they bought sports shoes to start training: “They were the cheapest there were,” says the hockey player, who shows 14ymedio the deteriorated pair of shoes she used to play in Cuba.

Miclín, López and Suárez managed to buy the plane tickets and risked going to the Barcelona airport without a visa. They were lucky. As it was a flight within the Spanish territory itself, they were not strict with their documents, so they were able to reach their destination without difficulty.

“The situation at the Antonio Maceo Grass Hockey School in Havana is very sad. There is a lot of hunger,” she recalls. “We train in terrible conditions, without sports equipment, because the country says that it does not have the resources to take care of  athletes. We almost always were hungry, because there was no bread for breakfast. We did three training sessions on an empty stomach.”

The three hockey players know that they will not return to Cuba for a long time, although they have not received any notification from INDER. But their position is clear: “We do not agree with that system and even less with how high-performance athletes are treated in Cuba.”

Suárez and her teammates join the more than 75 Cuban athletes who have left their delegations between 2022 and 2023, according to journalist Francys Romero, who does not include in the number those who have left the country after asking for leave, retiring or leaving the Island by legal means.

On April 12, the Cuban News Agency (ACN) expressed itself in laudatory terms about Cuban hockey players of both sexes, whose delegations trained to “maintain regional supremacy” in the San Salvador games.

That’s why there’s a “great motivation” for the trip to Barcelona, the person in charge of pre-selecting the athletes, Mileysi Argentei, told ACN. At the Barcelona training base, Yadira Miclín and Dailyn Suárez were scheduled to play as defenders, while Marianela López would serve as a forward.

After the Cuban defeat in Miami during the controversial World Baseball Classic, the catcher Iván Prieto also escaped from his hotel and stayed in the United States. The stampede of Cuban athletes became a headache for the regime, which in July 2022 — after the escape of several Cubans in the Athletics World Cup, also in the United States — dismissed Yipsi Moreno, the national commissioner, from his position.

Moreno, one of the unconditional supporters of the regime, was also removed from the Council of State, the body that is responsible for choosing the Government and approving the laws proposed by Parliament. Upon leaving the athletics commission, INDER issued a brief statement: his dismissal, they said, responded to the “personal will” of the former athlete.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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