Two 18-year-old Cuban baseball players, who went missing from the ongoing World Junior Baseball Championship in Edmonton, have possibly defected to the US for big paycheques.
The disappearance of the two young Cubans has led former president Fidel Castro to lambast Canada, saying it ``stole'' his country's stars.
Event organizers said Noel Argayus and Jose Iglesias went missing after their team's match against Canada.
``We have no indication where they are at this time. We're sorry about it because we don't like to see these things happen,'' Castro was quoted as saying by Canadian TV.
Hitting out at the two players in his internet column, Castro called their defection an act ``despicable betrayal.''
Calling Edmonton ``a dumping ground," he said, ``That city has a privilege of hosting that championship every year. We should analyze whether it is worth attending that tournament.''
Since the players might have defected to the US where they can command a paycheque of up to $2 million, Castro said, ``Japan and the United States are big countries. They do not have to deal with an economic blockade. Both countries have great resources. No one steals or plunders their athletes.''
Saying that the defections will cost five gold medals to his country, the former Cuban strongman said, ``It is disgusting to read about the details of the commercial arrangements surrounding the case.''
It is not the first time Cuban baseballs players have defected while playing in Edmonton.
In 2000, two players had defected while playing in the same World Junior Baseball Championship in the Canadian city.