This week, the Obama Administration intercepted two well-known Cuban baseball players at sea and handed them over to the Castro regime's authorities.
Granted, they were smuggled out by speed-boat and there's an important law enforcement component that needs to be respected (for their own safety).
But were they given an adequate opportunity to present their case for asylum? Particularly in light of the repercussions that baseball defectors face (see column below) upon repatriation.
Overall, this leads to even bigger questions for debate.
Has Obama's new policy of travel back-and-forth completely desensitized the political risks Cubans face upon defection?
Is this new policy hurting genuine asylum-seeking Cubans as a result?
Or is wet foot/dry foot (and the overarching Cuban Adjustment Act) just totally broken?
By Stuart Anderson in Forbes:
Cuba: Where the Infield is Shaped Like a Prison
To understand repression in a society such as Cuba it is best look not only at its poorest members but those considered relatively well off. And the plight of one group deserves attention. That group is Cuban baseball players.
When Aroldis Chapman pitched for the Cincinnati Reds in September 2010 he electrified crowds with fastballs reaching 105 miles per hour. If Fidel Castro had his way Chapman would have never set foot on American soil. Only because he defected, at much personal risk, was he able to achieve his dream of playing in the Major Leagues. "I wanted to test myself in the highest levels of baseball," he said, explaining his reason for defecting.
While Cuba and the Dominican Republic are of similar size and baseball pedigree, an analysis from the National Foundation for American Policy found there were only four Cuban baseball players on the 40-man rosters of Major League baseball teams in 2006, compared to 81 players from the Dominican Republic. And all four Cuban players were forced to escape the island to play in America.
Some may argue baseball players are treated better than most Cubans. And that may be true in certain material aspects. But in another more vital respect – economic liberty – Cuban baseball players are among the most oppressed group of people on earth.
One dictionary defines slavery as a relationship "in which one person has absolute power over the life, fortune and liberty of another." The relationship between Cuban baseball players and Fidel Castro (and the rest of the Cuban leadership) meets that definition.
Over the years, many journalists have been invited to interview Fidel Castro. To my knowledge none has ever asked him: "Why does Cuba, alone among virtually all countries on earth, prevent its athletes from leaving to pursue their chosen professions at the highest level? What right does Fidel Castro or anyone else have to, in practice, imprison individuals on this island-nation rather than let them pursue their dreams of playing against the best in the world?"
Some modern-day fellow travelers in the West defend this violation of human rights. The Wall Street Journal (November 9, 2010) profiled a retired U.S. professor, Peter Bjarkman, who reports on Cuban baseball and has been criticized for his coziness with Cuban officials. Bjarkman supports the status quo. He likes that Cubans are denied the chance to play in the Major Leagues unless they risk their life, freedom or family by escaping. "It's a beautiful baseball experience," says Bjarkman. "And I don't want to see it fall apart from U.S. teams strip-mining it for talent."
Most Cuban baseball players make the equivalent of $125 a month, compared to the Major League minimum annual salary of $405,000. But the issue is not just about money. How would you like to be among the best in the world at your profession yet denied the opportunity to compete against others of elite talent because, through no fault of your own, you were born in a country ruled by a dictatorship?
Cuba remains one of the few nations today to forbid the free emigration of its citizens. That means Cubans wishing to play baseball in the Major Leagues have been forced to defect, escaping from Cuba at much personal risk. A good example is Kendry Morales, who in 2009 led the American League West Division Champion Angels in home runs and runs batted in.
The Cuban government banned Morales from playing inside Cuba after it suspected him of a desire to defect. "Determined to get on the field again, Morales says he tried to escape 12 times, usually failing because of rough seas. Thrice he was caught, spending a mandatory 72 hours in jail each time... On June 8, 2004, 12 days short of turning 21, Morales finally made it out on a rowboat that took him and other passengers to a larger boat, which carried them to Florida," reported USA Today.
What greater example do we have of the bankruptcy of the Cuban socialist system than its need to use the full force of the state against young men who simply want to play baseball for a living?
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- "Self-Employment" for Castro's Elite
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- Legislation to Sanction Spain's Repsol
- Is Wet Foot/Dry Foot Totally Broken?
- Challenging Obama's Cuba Policy Rationale
- Young Political Prisoner Being Abused
- Wrong Time to Please Castro
- Third Most Repressed Economy in the World
- U.S. Sadly Helping Castro With "China Model"
- Concern Over Travel Loopholes
- Quote(s) of the Month
- Obama Slaps Cuba's Political Prisoners
- Let's Make a Bet
- Castro Regime Persecutes Protestants
- Quote of the Day
- Kudos to Harry Reid
- Obama's Latest Gift To Castro
- The Economics of Obama's New Cuba Policy
- Do Sanctions Help Castro?
- Bad Politico Calculus
- If You Give Something, Get Something
- On This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- Dodging (Congress) and the Embargo
- Attention All Cuba Travelers
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