Chile says it received 10 asylum requests from Cuban athletes

Mexico City, Nov. 10, (dpa/GNA) – The Chilean government on Thursday said it received 10 requests for refugee protection from athletes who had recently taken part in the Pan-American Games in Santiago.
A total of 12 of the 412 members of the Cuban delegation were still in the South American country, Chilean government spokeswoman Camila Vallejo said on Thursday.
The quadrennial competitions for athletes from the American continent were held in Santiago from October 20 to November 5.
Cuban athletes frequently compete abroad.
The Caribbean one-party state is currently experiencing one of its worst economic crises since Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959, due to a decades-long US embargo, mismanagement and a slump in tourism.
More than 400,000 Cubans have crossed the US border in the past two years – almost 4% of the socialist island nation’s population.
According to media reports, six hockey players were among the athletes who defected. Team captain Yunia Milanés told the Chilean television station T13 that they had left the team and gone into hiding on the journey back to the athletes’ village after their match against Uruguay.
Cuban security personnel strictly monitored the women during the games.
There was a lack of basic training equipment in their home country, said Milanés. She also complained of near prison like conditions in athlete training facilities in Cuba.
“I don’t have freedom or a future” in Cuba, she told T13. Her boyfriend, fellow Cuban national hockey player Lázaro Tolón, had already left for Chile a few months ago.