Cuban players go missing at tourney

Updated: June 19, 2012, 7:25 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Five Cuban players who recently arrived for an international basketball tournament in Puerto Rico are missing, the president of the Puerto Rican Basketball Federation said Tuesday.

Carlos Beltran said the men did not show up for practice or for their second game against Nicaragua. He said the remaining seven Cuban athletes will continue to play.

"The team has to keep playing," he said. "It's a commitment."

Beltran said the federation is taking no action and that the missing players are free to apply for legal residence if they so choose.

"This is a sports event, not a political event," he said.

Cuba lost to the Bahamas 81-66 on Monday. The team is scheduled to play against Puerto Rico and Panama as well.

Ruperto Herrera, president of Cuba's basketball federation, said the players disappeared from their hotel early Tuesday morning. They were identified as Enrique Ramos, Leonel Batista, Ismael Romero, Juan Pablo Pineiro and Yudniel Perez.

Ten teams are in Puerto Rico for the Centrobasket Championship 2012 that runs from June 18-24. The four winning teams will go on to play in the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship.

Some Cuban athletes in the past have used international competitions as an opportunity to defect. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and Cubans who make it to the island generally are allowed to apply for legal residence.


Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press