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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 September 2007, 01:23 GMT 02:23 UK
Brazil asylum for Cuban athletes
Brazil has granted asylum to two Cuban athletes who defected during July's Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Cyclist Michel Fernandez Garcia and handball player Rafael Capote won asylum after Brazil controversially sent two boxers back to Cuba.

Champion boxers Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara also sought asylum during the games but were swiftly deported by Brazil.

Human rights groups and opposition politicians criticised that move.

They said the Brazilian government was acting on behalf of the Cuban authorities.

'Better opportunities'

The refugee status awarded to Garcia and Capote entitles them to work in Brazil, to open bank accounts and to apply for Brazilian citizenship after six years.

Guillermo Rigondeaux (right) and Erislandy Lara (middle) arrested in Rio de Janeiro
Fidel Castro accused the two boxers of betraying their country
Rafael Capote said he had defected because he was looking for better professional opportunities abroad.

Guillermo Rigondeaux, 25, a two-time Olympic bantamweight world champion, and 24-year-old Erislandy Lara, a 2005 welterweight world champion, both abandoned the athletes' village on 22 July.

They were arrested 11 days later for overstaying their visas and sent back to Cuba, prompting Brazil's Congress to launch an investigation.

Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused the boxers of betraying their country, but did promise neither would be punished.

Brazil police detain Cuban boxers
03 Aug 07 |  Americas
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29 Jul 07 |  Americas
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14 Jul 07 |  Americas
Cuban boxers barred from travel
29 Aug 07 |  Americas
Cuban boxers deported from Brazil
06 Aug 07 |  Americas

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