Havana Threats Against Their Families Made Boxers Give Up Defecting in Brazil

Cuban boxers Rigondeaux and Lara return to Cuba Cuban boxers Guillermo Rigondeaux, 26, and Erislandy Lara, 24,both world champions, changed their mind after having decided to defect during last month's Pan American Games, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, because they couldn't stand the pressure from the Cuban regime, which threatened to harm their relatives who live in Cuba.

This is the explanation given by  Ahmet í–ner, the German boxing promoter of Turkish origin who wanted to take them to Germany, in a interview to daily Folha de S. Paulo.

"Now they say that they are sorry, that they did nothing," tells the promoter. "It's all blah blah blah. They wanted to go to Germany to become professionals and for the money. They only changed their story because they couldn't stand the pressure. They told Rigondeaux and Lara that due to their attempt to defect, they would do this and that to their relatives. They are quite young and couldn't take it." 

In one of several versions of their story the boxers told Brazil's Federal police that they had been drugged by the Germans and that they had got lost after this episode.

Commenting on this story, í–ner said: "Never. Neither I nor anyone who went to Brazil to meet them would do such a thing.  We are not this kind of people".

According to í–ner, the Cubans "drank and met dancers because they wanted, out of their own free will."  "Why would I do this?," he asks. "I don't need it. I work with three of their Cuban friends. My Cubans are my business card." He was talking about the Cuban boxers who defected last December.

Rigondeaux and Lara, who returned to Havana Sunday, August 4, in an interview published this Thursday by Granma, the government controlled newspaper, told still another story. This time, they present the Brazilian police as trying to convince them to stay in Brazil.

Rigondeaux said: "Everybody was telling us the same thing. Don't go back to Cuba, because there is a big punishment waiting for you there."

His colleague Lara stated that they had been offered money to defect, but that they declined and contacted Brazilian authorities instead. "The Federal Police." he told, "asked us to stay in Brazil because in Brazil we would make much more money than in Cuba and that they would make the passports so that we might become Brazilians officially."

Responding to this, Brazil's Federal Police stated that they never encouraged the Cuban athletes to defect: ""The athletes themselves took the decision to leave the delegation. In a case like this the Federal Police's duty is to offer shelter. This is our duty. The police chief offered shelter about three times. A person who abandons a delegation has his reasons, that's why the police offer shelter to assure his life and his right to choose," said a Federal Police spokesman.

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