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
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.
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.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/09/29 01:23:21 GMT