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CNN Today

Cuban College Baseball Player Defects in Minnesota

Aired May 9, 2000 - 2:18 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: So far Havana won't comment on a baseball player's plans to seek asylum in the United States. The 20- year-old has turned up in Miami after separating from his team this weekend in Minnesota.

CNN's Susan Candiotti has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If Mario Chaoui fulfills his dream, one day he'll play Major League Baseball for the Florida Marlins.

MARIO CHAOUI, DEFECTOR: Second base.

CANDIOTTI: For now, the 20-year-old, 145-pounder for Cuba's National University team says he wants to defect and continue school.

CHAOUI: I was studying, in Cuba, economics.

CANDIOTTI: Chaoui says he wants to stay in Miami with his elderly grandmother and uncle. He won't go to another country, such as the Dominican Republic, where he could become a free agent and cash in. That's the route others took, including World Series MVPs Orlando and Livan Hernandez. By staying in the U.S. to claim asylum, Chaoui would have to take his chances with Major League Baseball's draft, which could mean less money.

For baseball agent Joe Cubas, that's a first.

JOE CUBAS, BASEBALL AGENT: This kid did not defect for money. This kid did not defect for fame. He defected because he was looking for freedom.

CANDIOTTI: Chaoui arrived in Minneapolis-St. Paul Saturday with his teammates for a local college game. His Florida uncle, who had not seen the boy since he was a baby, introduced himself and says he suggested Chaoui stay in the U.S.

Chaoui claims he decided on the spot to ask for asylum. When the team began boarding a bus, Chaoui says he easily drifted away from the crowd into his uncle's nearby car. The player leaves behind his parents and 12-year-old sister in Cuba. Baseball agent Cubas says Chaoui will formally apply for political asylum in a few days. It's likely he'll get it. As for his dream of playing major league baseball? Cubas says it's too early to tell. Outside this parking lot, he hasn't seen Chaoui play, not yet.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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