Chilean opposition politicians have called on the government to grant shelter to the eleven Cuban athletes who defected at the end of the 2023 Pan American Games. President Gabriel Boric is facing pressure from this request, which has led to a temporary residence permit for eight months for the group. Official statements were made after the surprise of the mass escape, but Boric has not yet commented on the issue.
The athletes had valid visas and could stay in Chile doing tourism, according to Interior Minister Francisco Huala. However, after their defection, it was discovered that their documents were detained by the Cuban government. The reason for their escape was attributed to the difficult economic situation in Cuba due to the North American blockade.
The defectors shared harrowing stories of confinement and separation from family members, with no possibility of seeing them more than twice a year. Some of them spoke out about their main motivation for defecting being to feel free. Deputies from Chile Vamos presented a draft resolution asking the government to grant asylum to all of them. Despite this demand, President Boric and Foreign Minister Alberto Van Klaveren have not spoken on the issue, leading to criticism from some quarters.
Some analysts believe that President Boric’s silence is due to political considerations and pressure from other members of his coalition government alliance who may be sympathetic towards Cuba’s Communist Party regime. Others suggest that Boric is at a personal crossroads and struggling to recognize Cuba as a dictatorship despite his left-leaning ideology. However, one thing is clear – there are still many questions surrounding this incident and its implications for both Chile and international relations with Cuba.
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