Monday, October 31, 2005

Some fear for families of Cuban choir defectors

Some fear for families of Cuban choir defectors News Staff

Updated: Sun. Oct. 30 2005 7:20 AM ET

A Cuban choir is 11 members short following defections in Canada, and
some people are afraid that could mean repercussions for family members
who remain in the communist country.

The Coro Nacional de Cuba has been performing in Canada, and is ending
its tour with a Saturday performance in Vancouver.

During their visit to Toronto last Sunday, 11 singers defected and are
now in hiding. They made their escape from a city hotel with the help of
the Cuban–Canadian Foundation.

"They are in a safe house, enjoying freedom, getting help from the Cuban
community," the foundation's Ismael Sambra tells CTV News.

The choice to defect to Canada comes at a deep cost because family
members are permanently left behind. That tough decision is made more
difficult by concerns that loved ones still in Cuba could be targeted by
the government.

"The danger could be maybe the family will be arrested because of the
choice of their relatives. They could be intimidated," says Amnesty
International's Kamau Ngugi.

It's a claim the Cuban government denies.

"No one in Cuba has been prosecuted because someone decided to remain
out of Cuba because of their beliefs," says Ambassador Ernesto Senti Darias.

Still, the 11 defectors remain out of sight, and their choir continues
to perform.

On Saturday, the remaining choir members were to perform with the
Vancouver Chamber Choir.

The Cuban choir director defends her homeland. Digna Guerra Ramirez told
CTV News Vancouver that Cuba offers many freedoms. Plus she says her
choir's tour and the cultural message they are bringing to Canada have
not been affected by her singers' sudden departure.

With a report CTV News Vancouver's Renu Bakshi

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