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Last Updated: Monday, 6 August 2007, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Cuban boxers deported from Brazil
 A police officers escorts Erislandy Lara (left)  and Guillermo Rigondeaux (right)
The two would be given sports-related tasks, Fidel Castro said
Two Cuban boxers who abandoned their team during last month's Pan American games in Rio de Janeiro have been deported by the Brazilian authorities.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who earlier condemned their apparent defection, wrote on Sunday that the boxers had repented and would not face arrest.

Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara, favourites for gold in Rio, failed to show up for their bouts.

Brazilian police picked them up on Thursday for overstaying their visas.

Rigondeaux, 25, who is a double Olympic and amateur world bantamweight champion, and 24-year-old world amateur welterweight champion Lara arrived back in Cuba on Sunday, state media reported.

In an article written ahead of their return, President Castro said the two had recognised they had made a mistake and had repented.

"These citizens will not face any kind of arrest," Mr Castro wrote. They would, he said, be taken to a guesthouse and given access to their families.

He did not say if they would be allowed to box again.

"They will be given decent tasks in sports according to their knowledge and experience," Mr Castro's message said.

Sports promoter

Correspondents say top baseball players suspected of trying to defect have in the past been given low-level sports jobs and dropped from the national team.

A Brazilian federal police official said it remained unclear why Rigondeaux and Lara had left their team.

The two men, who were picked up last Thursday in a coastal town 108km (67 miles) from Rio, had no papers on them and told the authorities they wished to return to Cuba, Brazilian officials said.

A German sports company Arena said last week that it had signed a contract with the boxers, who are forbidden in Cuba to switch from amateur to professional.

An Arena spokesman told Brazilian media the boxers had changed their minds about signing out of fear for their families' safety back in Cuba.

The whereabouts of two other Cubans, handball player Rafael Dacosta and gym trainer Lazaro Lamelas, who also disappeared during the Pan American Games' are not known.

Brazil police detain Cuban boxers
03 Aug 07 |  Americas
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29 Jul 07 |  Americas
Pan American Games open in Brazil
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