Cuban baseball players abandon team in Mexico in biggest defection in years
Nearly a dozen players from Cuba’s national baseball team defected during a tournament in Mexico.
Eleven of the 24 members taking part in a World Cup tournament for players under the age of 23 fled over the weekend, in what would be one of the largest and most embarrassing mass defection incidents in the world. communist country for years.
Cuban officials called the players’ actions “vile abandons” and accused them of having “low morals”.
The defection of the players, who were due to return to the island yesterday (MON), is one of the biggest losses of this type suffered by a Cuban team playing abroad.
Cuban baseball players are often recruited by scouts looking to recruit them to play with major league clubs, and strained relations between the United States and Cuba prevent them from engaging in a regular hiring process.
In 2018, the Caribbean nation signed an agreement with Major League Baseball on normalizing sports relations, but it was quickly canceled by the Trump administration, which took a hard line against Cuba seeking to pressure the government. communist on the island to effect political change.
Typically, only players deemed most loyal to the government are selected to play overseas and are accompanied by government escorts to prevent them from defecting.
Amid rising Covid-10 cases, food shortages and power outages, anti-government protests erupted across the island in July. Cubans took to the streets chanting “Libertad,” Spanish for “freedom.”
“I hate the word ‘default’ because it makes Cuba look like an army,” said Yale professor emeritus Roberto González Echevarría, author of Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball.
“What you have to take into account is that all of these players, including those who are successful in the major leagues, are looking for freedom,” he told USA Today. “They want freedom, just like those Cubans who cross the border into Mexico or the many others who risk their lives in boats.”
Cuba finished its game of the under-23 tournament on Saturday, losing to Colombia in the bronze medal game. The U23 World Cup took place in the state of Sonora, in northern Mexico.