Amazing that anyone would flee Cuba now that the benevolent Raul Castro legalized DVD players and computers (though both DVDs and Internet connections are still out of the question and the average monthly wage remains around $19), but it appears that 2004 Olympic bronze medalist in judo Yurisel Laborde has defected to the Empire. Despite the supposed liberalization measures undertaken by the new Jefe, Cubans keep disappearing when visiting the U.S. Last month it was four ballet dancers from the National Ballet of Cuba, in March seven members of Cuba's under-23 soccer team, a steady stream of baseball players and doctors, and, of course, the thousands of boat people that set sail every month. The Associated Press on the missing judo star:
The Cubans checked in for their flight lugging new mountain bikes, televisions, espresso machines and other purchases made during their historic stay in Miami. It was the first time in 40 years that a Cuban Olympic team in any sport had competed in this city, a hotbed of anti-Castro sentiment.
As she waited for a bike to be wrapped in plastic, tournament gold medalist Idalys Ortiz said she was proud of her team's performance. Like her teammates, Ortiz declined to talk about Laborde, who won gold in the 78-kilogram division.
"Of that, I don't know anything," Ortiz said.
Coach Ronaldo Veitia Valdivie said he trusted Laborde, whom he had trained since she was 12. He said he had worked hard to enable her to compete in Miami, since she was already qualified for this summer's Beijing Olympics.
"She wasn't thinking it through. You know how youth is," he said.