Bahamas sends 65 Cubans back home, including baseball players

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Infuriating Cuban exile groups in the United States, the Bahamas returned 65 Cuban boat people to their communist homeland Monday, including three baseball defectors who had been courted by American sports agents.
More than 100 other Cuban detainees who also were denied political asylum will be sent home in the coming weeks, said Vernon Burrows, the Bahamas’ deputy immigration director.
The 65 Cubans, many of whom were held for months at a Nassau detention center, were deported early Monday on a chartered Cubana de Aviacion flight. None protested as they were put on a bus to take them to the airport, Burrows said.
Cuba’s government-run news agency, Prensa Latina, reported that the 45 men, 12 women and eight children were given medical exams in Havana and were to be sent to their homes in Villa Clara, Matanzas and Las Tunas provinces.
The group included baseball players Angel Lopez, 25, Jorge Diaz, 23, Michael Jova, 17, and pitching coach Orlando Chinea, 41. They and first baseman Jorge Luis Toca, 23, fled Cuba by boat in March and were rescued by a Bahamian fishing crew. Toca is married to a Japanese citizen and was granted a Japanese visa in April.
All were banned from Cuban baseball last year because Cuban officials suspected they were planning to defect. Once in the Bahamas, the players were recruited by Florida-based sports agent Joe Cubas and a rival agency, KDN Sports Inc.
The Bahamas refused to grant them political asylum after interviewers from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees concluded that the refugees hadn’t been politically persecuted in Cuba.