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Cuban Player Leaves Minn. Group

May 7, 2000

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ A member of a Cuban baseball team visiting the Twin Cities got into a car and sped off Saturday in a possible defection as his team was leaving the terminal at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The player was a member of a team stocked mostly of students from the University of Havana and some students from a technical institute in the Cuban capital, said Doug Hennes, a spokesman for the University of St. Thomas, which sponsored the visit.

After a welcoming ceremony, the student walked out of the Hubert Humphrey Terminal along with other players, coaches, staff and faculty members.

``Everybody was heading out of the terminal toward the team bus, and this guy literally jumped into a car and took off,″ Hennes said. He said only one member of the team saw him leave, and was unable to get the car’s license plate number.

Hennes said school officials know the name of the missing student but were adhering to a request by the Immigration and Naturalization Service not to release his name. The Star Tribune reported he was believed to be Mario Miguel Chaoui.

The student had not contacted his group or government authorities as of late afternoon, and his whereabouts remained unknown.

The team is in Minnesota to return a visit to Cuba by the St. Thomas baseball team last winter.

An INS official met with university officials earlier in the week to review procedures in case a member of the Cuban delegation left the group, Hennes said.

All scheduled activities for the team will go on as scheduled through May 11, said the Rev. Dennis Dease, the St. Thomas president. A dinner and welcoming events were held on campus Saturday evening, and the Havana and St. Thomas teams are scheduled to play Tuesday in the Metrodome.

In games in Cuba in January, St. Thomas won 7-0 and 10-1.

The last time a Cuban team of college players came to the United States was in 1987, when a national team played several games at the Metrodome.

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