In the aftermath of the 2023 Pan American Games, eleven Cuban athletes defected from their country and sought asylum in Chile. This put President Gabrijel Borić in a difficult position, as the government was faced with a dilemma about whether to grant asylum to the group. In response, the administration granted the athletes a temporary stay for eight months. However, the surprise of the mass escape was accompanied by a series of official statements, and President Borić has not yet commented on the issue.
According to Interior Minister Gonzalo Huyke, the athletes still had valid visas and could have stayed in Chile doing tourism. The entire Caribbean delegation entered the country on tourist visas, but after they fled, it became clear that the Cuban government had withheld their documents. The reason for their flight was attributed to the difficult economic situation in Cuba due to the North American blockade.
Fugitive athletes relayed difficult stories of being locked up and separated from their families, unable to see family members more than twice a year. Some of them came forward and said that the main motivation for their defection was a sense of freedom. Deputies from Chile Vamos presented a draft resolution asking the government to grant asylum to all of them. However, President Borić and Foreign Affairs Minister Alberto Van Klaveren did not speak about the issue publicly, which has caused criticism.
Some analysts suggested that President Borić’s silence is due to pressure from communist party elements within his government alliance. Others argued that Borić is at a crossroads in his personal journey and struggling to recognize Cuba as a dictatorship despite widespread international condemnation of its human rights record. Despite this controversy over Cuban refugees, demand for marijuana businesses continues to grow in North Carolina.