14ymedio, Havana, 16 November 2023 — Cuban emigration Cuban lawyer Mijail Bonito, who represents the 13 athletes who abandoned the Cuban delegation during the Pan American Games, accused the Communist Party of Chile on Wednesday of acting as Havana’s “interest office” to discredit his clients. The athletes, he emphasizes, now have temporary residence visas despite the fact that attempts have been made to “delegitimize their reasons.”
The athletes, mostly women, have settled in Santiago and “are looking for work,” the lawyer said. He added, without mentioning names, that “there are many people who are looking for a way for them to integrate themselves into the Chilean sports world.”
The hockey players Yunia Milanés, Jennifer Martínez, Yakira Guillén, Lismary González, Helec Carta and Geidy Morales, and the bronze medalist in 400-meter hurdles, Yoao Illas, are currently training in a municipal gym, he added.
Bonito said that during the process to regularize the immigration status of the athletes, they have firmly based their efforts on Law 20.430 which offers refuge to those who flee their country because “their life, security or freedom have been threatened by widespread violence,” or they have experienced a massive violation of human rights. The Communist Party, however, has overlooked the legitimate reasons of the athletes to leave the Island and insists on discrediting the legal arguments that support them, Bonito said.
According to the president of the Party, Lautaro Carmona, the Cuban athletes entered the South American country with “official passports, official transfers and with the institutional representation of their country,” and specified that, under these conditions, “there is nothing to indicate that they suffer persecution.”
Carmona disqualified the statements of one of the escaped hockey players, Yunia Milanés, when she revealed the precarious conditions in which they trained on the Island: “We didn’t have shoes, equipment or protective gear. We had to wait for a donation and the approval of the sports authorities,” the athlete said at the time.
According to Carmona, “This precariousness that athletes have in preparing (to compete)” is the fault of what he called “the criminal economic blockade of the United States against Cuba.” Speaking to the newspaper La Tercera on November 9, the politician said that the issue was “part of a campaign” of “the right,” among which he included the Cuban lawyer.
Bonito did not take long to respond by reminding Carmona that Cuban laws sanction athletes who leave a delegation with “penalties of up to eight years of deprivation of liberty.”
According to the National Migration Service, between 2018 and 2021 – during the Administration of Sebastián Piñeira – 4,557 Cubans applied for refuge in Chile, but only one obtained it. During the government of the current president, Gabriel Boric, 345 people from the Island requested refuge and none were granted it. However, since the abandonments were announced, the opposition has called on the Government to speed up the processes and accept the request of the Cuban athletes.
So far, the Chilean president has not spoken about the escapes of Cuban athletes or their requests for refuge. His most recent speech on the Island was at the beginning of November, when in a meeting he asked his American counterpart, Joe Biden, to remove Cuba from the list of states sponsoring terrorism and to lift the sanctions.
The Boric Administration has granted a different status to Cuba and Venezuela than to other regimes such as Nicaragua, whose president persecutes “those who think differently.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
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