A rumor that the Cuban athletes participating in the Pan American Games in Brazil were planning a spectacular mass defection, apparently, was the reason behind the sudden and unexpected departureÂ of the Cuban delegation from Brazil. They returned home leaving behind at least a medal to receive and without taking part in the closing ceremonies.
According to the Brazilian press, Raul Castro, Cuba's acting president, was the one who ordered the immediate return of the athletes to Havana. About 200 athletes and coaches were taken from the Pan-American Village to the International Airport Tom Jobim in Rio in six buses and two trucks.
Asked by reporters why they were leaving a few of the athletes who were talking said that the early departure had been decided even before they left Cuba. At Infraero, the Brazilian air authority, an official informed that the plane they usedÂ had been chartered and initial plans were for the aircraft to leave Sunday night, July 29.
Rodolfo Terez, a Cuban coach, seemed irritated when asked why the whole delegation was leaving Brazil before the end of the games. His answer: "Part of the delegation goes today and the rest tomorrow. Nothing happened and if you ask me this again I will not answer."
The Cubans, on Saturday, won a bronze in the men's tournament, but the Cuban team left the Maracanãzinho way before the medals were given. With the sudden departure there will be no participant of Cuba in the traditional marathon that happens today. Norbert Gutierrez was the athlete supposed to represent that country.
There were four known cases of Cuban defectors during the game. The first case occurred even before the opening ceremonies. Handball player Rafael Capote, 19, abandoned his colleagues July 11, taking a taxi to São Paulo, where he met a fellow Cuban who had defected earlier. Capote, who has since disappeared, said that he was going to ask for political asylum in Brazil.
Artistic gymnastics coach Lázaro Lamelas Ramírez was the second one to defect. Then it was the time for boxers Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Santoya to also abandon their colleagues. Rigondeaux and Santoya. went to Germany, where they have signed a five-year contract with a TV sports channel.
Cuba is the second country with more medals in these Pan-American games, just behind the United States, Cubans got 58 gold medals, 35 silver ones and another 40 of bronze.