The spiriting away of Basketball Coach Jos� Sarasa, who, coincidentally, had once coached D�az, had even more of a serape-and-dagger air to it. "I was looking for prospects near the college," D�az recalls, "when I saw Jos� walking. He got in the car, but two G-2s piled in with him, so we could not converse. When he got out he whispered to me he must talk to me on a matter of life or death. At the basketball game the next night he was surrounded by G-2s, but I met him in the bathroom. He told me things were so bad in Cuba he had to leave. He wanted to take his clothes, so we made it for Sunday night, but I was tipped off that G-2 had knowledge of his desires, so I got a message to him at the game on Friday night that it was that night or never."
That night Cuba lost to Mexico 85 to 61. After the final buzzer Sarasa made his way through the crowd to congratulate the Mexican coach. He then went to the officials' table and spoke a few words to the timekeeper. He stalled for a few moments, watching his team file out and head for their bus. Apparently satisfied that his boys were on their way back to the dorm, he walked briskly toward the exit. Once outside the gate, instead of turning to the car waiting to take him back, Sarasa went quickly through a vacant lot to a black sedan, its engine running, a back door ajar. D�az materialized, clasped Sarasa's hand and helped him into the car, which gunned out of the lot in a swirl of dust. Approaching the hideaway it passed through a band of 30 Cuban exiles armed with machetes, sticks and shovels ready to repel any attempt to recapture Sarasa. "My wife might be killed for me doing this," Sarasa said. "I hope she renounces me."
Aside from the clandestine operations, one violent riot took place. When Puerto Rico played Cuba in baseball—on a refurbished cricket field—bench-jockeying, which is usually restricted to comments about an opponent's color, religion, national origin, legitimacy, courage and personal habits, became alarmingly political. The Cubans, for instance, called the Puerto Ricans "stooges" and "worms at the service of Yankee imperialism." Naturally, the Puerto Ricans took umbrage, and were joined in their high feelings by Cuban exiles in the stands. Fist-fighting, chair-throwing and other alarums and excursions followed. In another incident the Cuban cycling coach, piqued at all the photographs that were being taken, broke American Photographer Frank Beatty's arm by flinging a very heavy chair at him.
Athletically the Games (1,600 athletes from 15 countries competed in 15 sports) have been absolutely no contest. Mexico's large, confident and well-equipped team has been overwhelmingly dominant; after the first week it had won 30 gold medals, 14 silver medals and 11 bronze. No other country had received more than five gold medals. Going into the second week, Cuba stood fifth in the standings, behind Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Colombia as well as Mexico.
For all their drama and international intrigue, the Games have had their delightful moments, the kind which are seldom found, say, at the World Olympics. The basketball competition was postponed after 1) the basket was found not to be at the right height; 2) the uprights arrived late; 3) the uprights, when they arrived, were too weak to support the heavy backboard; 4) the scoreboard clock did not work and 5) the foul circle was in the wrong place. There was general pinching of usherettes in the stadium, and the local newspaper, The Daily Gleaner, quietly advised the offending parties to lay off. Owners of pigs, goats and burros were asked to keep them off the roads being used for a bicycle race. And finally there were impromptu ukulele and maraca concerts on various levels of the stadium during the late nighttime events.
Unfortunately, the Ninth Central American and Caribbean Games will not be remembered for Mexico's virtuosity or for a misplaced foul circle. Instead of being a sporting contest between 15 nations, it turned out to be a no-holds-barred struggle between two ideologies. "You have been told by Fidel to break the bones of the agitators," Chief Delegate Gonzales Guerra told the Cuban delegation in an emergency meeting, "and remember your duty." Castro, in his attempt to impress the Caribbean countries with his socialized legions, blundered badly. Not only did he lose face by having a leaky team, but he failed to observe the first principle of successful coaching—and successful propaganda: even if you think you're going to win big, speak softly and guarantee nothing.