Blind Cuban Swimmer Yunerki Ortega Requests Legal Aid to Stay in Chile

Blind swimmer Yunerki Ortega left the Pan-American Villa in Chile in the early hours of Sunday. (Jit)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, November 20, 2023 — The long list of athletes who left the Cuban delegation at the Pan American Games in Chile was joined this Sunday by blind swimmer Yunerki Ortega Ponce, who was part of the paralympic team. According to the T13 network, the “disappeared” Cuban contacted lawyer Mijail Bonito, who represents 13 other escapees in Chile.

The T13 reported that Ortega Ponce left the Pan-American Villa, where the athletes are staying, around 4:30 in the morning. “Passers-by helped him take a taxi to a service center near the National Stadium,” the network explained.

From the headquarters of the Parapan American Games, which end on November 26, Ortega Ponce went to a compatriot’s house and contacted the exiled Cuban lawyer Mijail Bonito to start his refugee process.

The lawyer told Ex Ante that he “could not refer to the case” of Yunerki Ortega Ponce, whom the police were looking for. The Cuban swimmer escaped hours after his participation in the 50-meter (165-feet) freestyle test in the S11 category, in which he finished in fifth place.

Ortega Ponce left the Villa Panamericana, where the athletes are staying, around 4:30 in the morning. “Passers-by helped him take a taxi to a service center near the National Stadium

Hours earlier, Yasmany Izquierdo Rojas, the Cuban swimmer’s friend, had been alerted of his absence and reported it to the managers of the Cuban delegation, who, after monitoring department 403, in Tower I of the Pan-American Villa, confirmed that Ortega Ponce had taken all his belongings.

Immediately the deputy head of the Cuban mission, Agustín Abril García, denounced the “disappearance” at the Cerrillos Police Station, located in the Villa, clarifying that they did not have “any record or proof of the swimmer’s departure” reported by the service guards during the night. The athlete, they stressed, didn’t answer their calls either.

The escape of Ortega Ponce joins that of the hockey players Yunia Milanés, Jennifer Martínez, Yakira Guillén, Lismary González, Helec Carta and Geidy Morales, and the bronze medalist in 400 meter (1300 foot) hurdles, Yoao Illas, just after his participation in the Pan American Games. Basketball players Betsy Guilarte Zamora and Lidier Vergara and three rowers, whose names have not been revealed, also escaped.

Despite the fact that the Communist Party has tried to discredit the arguments of the Cubans who have left to defend their reasons for leaving the delegation, they have already received temporary residence visas. The majority are training, and some have started a job search.

Last week, the Chamber of Deputies approved a request made by the Independent Democratic Union party asking President Gabriel Boric to “grant international protection and political asylum to the Cuban athletes” who decided to defect and remain in Chile.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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