A written record

The eighth reflection on the Pan American Games

 Reflections of President Fidel Castro

MANY important events are taking place around the world. Some are related to Cuba. Sometimes the news that reaches our country is much more interesting than a simple reflection of mine aimed at creating awareness.

The BBC interview of Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, one of our Five Heroes, which was televised yesterday, had a profound impact on me; what human content, profundity and brilliance, qualities that could only come from a mind that has endured nine years of unjust psychological torture. We urge the Roundtable program to continue informing us about the historic process surrounding the fate of our historic compatriots.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, the press continues to dig up news and to report on the activities of the two boxers who, breaking the rules, disappeared from the Cuban delegation’s accommodations.

An EFE cable datelined Rio de Janeiro on August 3 reports:

“After being found on Thursday in a beach resort on Rio de Janeiro’s northern coast, where they spent several days with a Cuban businessman and a German one, along with three prostitutes, the boxers were taken in the early morning to a hotel, where they are under the custody of Federal Police.

“Ringodeaux and Lara were arrested in the beach resort of Araruama on Thursday. In their statements to Federal Police, the two boxers said that they were repentant and wanted to return to Cuba, and that supposedly, they were the victims of an operation, for which they were drugged by the businessmen before being taken out of the Pan-American complex. The athletes turned down the offer of two lawyers who appeared in Federal Police headquarters and insisted on representing them.

“The two Cubans, however, were seen in different resorts on the northern coast of Rio de Janeiro in total freedom and enjoying the comforts of inns and parties full of alcoholic beverages and women. According to inn owners at the Saquarema resort interviewed by O Globo, the two boxers, together with the Cuban and German businessmen, spent several days in that city before traveling to Araruama in the company of three prostitutes hired in Rio de Janeiro. ‘They are good people; they treated us as if we were their girlfriends, and even said that they would miss us,’ said one of the women, who admitted that she had received almost $100 a day, in a statement to O Globo.”

These are uncomfortable but essential details and I cannot use terms different from those chosen by the news agency in its article. I imagine the boxers themselves informed their closest adult relatives about these facts.

Yesterday, August 6, a cable from the same agency reported:

”The Brazilian police stated it believed the version of events offered by the two Cuban boxers who were deported to their country after disappearing from the Pan American Games of Rio de Janeiro, in the sense that they had been drugged and tricked by two businessmen who wanted to take them to Germany.

“‘We believe what they told us and we consider their story feasible and probable,’ Federal Police Captain Felicio Latera, who headed the investigation, told EFE today.
”’The Brazilian Federal Police is not investigating the alleged desertion of the two Cubans; it is investigating the two businessmen who attempted to take them away,’ the captain declared.

That same day and in the same cable, EFE reported:

“In an interview with a Brazilian newspaper, German businessman Ahmet Öner, the promoter of four Cuban boxers given asylum in Germany, admitted that he organized the escape of Rigondeaux and Lara, for which he claims to have paid nearly half a million dollars.”

We do not doubt, on our part, that the Federal Police believed that the athletes’ regret was sincere. The mission of that institution was to work with the Cuban consulate to process the documents urgently requested by the boxers, and to explain what happened to them after 12 days of absence.

For the immense majority of our people, the essential thing is to learn of the moral conduct of these athletes, who are educated and trained with so much sacrifice. 
The greatest responsibility, in my opinion, lies with Erislandy Lara, who was captain of the boxing team, and despite that, broke the rules and ended up directly in the arms of the mercenaries. He is 24 years old, and studies Physical Education and Sport at the university. The two boxers are unaware of how their conduct has influenced the close friendships they shared with the three boxers who were bribed in Venezuela, although they surely did not know about the verbose indiscretion that would be used by the owner of the mafioso company after they failed to show up for their weigh-in.

The two athletes were reluctant to speak to the press. Miguel Hernández, a Granma journalist, waited for them at the airport and spoke with them about the matter. He was later disappointed with their answers after trying to write a convincing article on the boxers’ sincerity.

Julita Osendi, a TV reporter who was well-informed about the Pan-American Games in Rio, asked to visit them and tried to persuade them to speak with absolute frankness. They were more forthcoming and shared with her a number of additional details about their unusual adventure, but the final outcome of the interview was the same.

I asked comrade Fernández, a vice president of the Council of Ministers who is responsible for the National Sports Institute (INDER), among other institutions, to send me a transcript of Osendi’s interview with Erislandy Lara and Guillermo Rigondeaux. The image was not enough for me; I wanted to analyze each question and answer. The transcript is twice as long as this reflection.

I will ask Granma to publish it on the sports page or another section, to leave a written record of the conversation.

An athlete who abandons his delegation is like a soldier who abandons his comrades in the midst of combat. Cuba has many talented athletes but it has not stolen them from anyone.

Many poor countries have no problems with professional sports; however, in those countries many people also die prematurely or suffer debilitating illnesses due to lack of exercise. Rich, developed countries also suffer from this tragic state of affairs, given the shortcomings of their rotten system and the mercantilist spirit of their medical services. 
An athlete who abandons his delegation is like a soldier who abandons his comrades in the midst of combat. Cuba has many talented athletes but it has not stolen them from anyone. The people, moreover, enjoy their marvelous performances. It is now part of their culture, their well-being and their spiritual wealth.

The Revolution has kept its word. It promised to treat the two athletes humanely, to reunite them immediately with their families, to offer them access to the media if they wished and to provide them with decent employment according to their experience. We also have attended carefully to their health, as we do with all citizens.

It was essential, out of basic justice, to listen to them, and to find out to what extent they regretted their involvement in such a painful incident.

We have made available to our people the facts that we were able to gather. The athletes now wish to return to their families. They have reached a point of no return as part of the Cuban delegation in that sport.

We, on the other hand, must continue the struggle. It is now time to put together the list of Cuban boxers who will participate in the Beijing Olympics, about one year in advance. First, they must travel to the United States to participate in the World Championship, one of the three classifying events for the Olympic Games. Just imagine the mafia sharks demanding fresh meat.

There is one thing we should warn them about: we are not eager to make home deliveries. Cuba will not sacrifice one bit of honour or ideas for Olympic gold medals; the morale and patriotism of its athletes shall prevail above all else. We know that in boxing, the sizes of the ring and gloves have been modified to affect our country, which wins so many medals in this sport, to the extent that even professional boxing has now been included in the Olympics, as well.

Sport authorities are analyzing all possible alternatives, including changing the list of boxers or not sending a delegation at all, despite the penalties that follow. They are also analyzing possible strategies and tactics.

Healthy sports are incompatible with consumerism and wastefulness, which are at the root of the irreversible economic and social crisis facing the globalized world.

We will maintain our principled policy, even if the world continues to increasingly emphasize professional sports, and as in the times of Kid Chocolate – a true genius – and even if there are no medals for healthy sports, and the only concept of sport is the one that puts price tags on throwing pitches that are impossible to bat, scoring home runs and throwing and enduring punches with no protection whatsoever. We will never return to such a time.

Healthy sports are incompatible with consumerism and wastefulness, which are at the root of the irreversible economic and social crisis facing the globalized world.

Fidel Castro Ruz

August 7, 2007

8:25 p.m.

(Translation by Granma International)

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