The Cuban athletes who defected at the end of the 2023 Pan American Games have put President Gabriel Boric in a difficult position. The government has granted them a temporary residence permit for eight months, but there is still no official comment from President Boric on the issue.
The surprise of the massive escape was followed by a series of official statements, but it is unclear what motivated the athletes to flee Cuba. The Minister of the Interior stated that the entire Caribbean delegation entered Chile with tourist visas, and after they escaped, it became clear that their documents were detained by the Cuban government. Some analysts have suggested that the difficult economic situation in Cuba due to the North American blockade was a contributing factor.
The escaped athletes shared harrowing stories of confinement and separation from their families, with no possibility of seeing them more than twice a year. Deputies from Chile Vamos presented a draft resolution asking for asylum to be granted to all of them. However, President Boric and Foreign Minister Alberto Van Klaveren have not yet commented on the matter.
Despite this silence, some analysts believe that there may be political reasons behind it, such as pressure from China or fear of alienating voters ahead of upcoming elections. Others suggest that President Boric may simply be struggling to recognize Cuba as a dictatorship due to his personal beliefs or past experiences with authoritarian regimes in Latin America.
Regardless of these factors, it is clear that President Boric will face significant criticism for his handling of this issue both domestically and internationally. It remains to be seen how he will ultimately respond and what impact this will have on his presidency moving forward.