09/28/13 - Cuba Standard.com - Cuba allows athletes to compete professionally abroad
CUBA STANDARD In an apparent effort to stem the tide of defections and
raise the competitiveness of Cuban athletes in international events, the
Council of Ministers approved a measure that will allow athletes to enter
professional contracts abroad, official daily Granma announced.
With the exception of a handful aging baseball players who joined
professional teams in Mexico and Japan with government approval, in the
past all Cuban athletes turned professionals abroad were considered
Cuban athletes, according to the new rules, now have the possibility to
be contracted by other teams abroad,
without being treated like
merchandise. Athletes performing abroad will be protected by the
National Sports Institute (INDER) or Cuban sports federations; they are
expected to pay taxes and social security.
Details have yet to be published, and implications are unclear. However,
the immediate outcome will likely be an increase of Cuban baseball,
basketball and volleyball players, possibly boxers, on professional
circuits in Latin America, Asia and Europe.
The Council of Ministers, according to Granma, describes the changes as
only the beginning of a path.
Tacitly admitting the existence of professionals, the government now says
the income of high-performance athletes should depend on the results
achieved in the sport they practice.
While the new policy for remuneration of athletes, coaches and sports
specialists represents a major philosophical change in the governments
approach to top athletes, U.S. embargo regulations prohibit U.S.
professional teams to pay Cubans who are based on the island.
Citing the recent case of MLB threatening to withdraw its support for
the Caribbean Series if Cuban club teams participate, Granma columnist
Aliet Arzola Lima wrote in an article in August that the U.S. government
forces Cuban athletes to cut all links to the island. It is U.S. sanctions
that impede our athletes to play Major League baseball while maintaining
the link and commitment with their birth nation, she wrote.
Also, limiting the time they can spend abroad, the new rules oblige Cuban
athletes to participate in fundamental competitions on the island as
well as in national teams, according to Granma. If Cuban baseball players,
for instance, are obliged to play for a team in the Cuban national league,
they will only be able to compete abroad from May to October.
A law or decree has yet to be published; implementation of the new policy,
according to Granma, will be in the next months.
The new measures are aiming to perfect sports, create sources of income,
seek quality and rigor in competition, increase salaries gradually, and
ensure that everyone receives what corresponds to their work, the
official newspaper said.
Cuban champions and medal winners will now be paid fixed monthly salaries
in non-convertible Cuban pesos, ranging from the equivalent of US$18 to
$60, in addition to convertible-peso payments they already receive. Medal
winners will receive additional monthly payments during their active
career, in a similar range. Top baseball players may receive individual
seasonal bonuses of up to $200.
Cubas national baseball team has been constantly losing talent to Major
League Baseball. Adding to a list of dozens of stars, the highest-profile
recent defectors include first baseman José Daniel Abreu, outfielders
Yasiel Puig, Daniel Álvarez and Yoenis Céspedes, and pitcher Aroldis
Under Fidel Castro, baseball stars leaving the island without government
approval were considered traitors and not allowed back. However, the Cuban
government has gradually softened its stance over the past few years. A
recent change of Cubas migration law allows everybody with a passport
except people that have obligations with the Cuban state to travel and
stay abroad. Official media recently reported about a family visit back
home by retired MLB star Rey Ordóñez; also, for the first time state TV
recently showed a recorded MLB game, full-length. A veteran team of former
players for Industriales, Cubas top club team, in August played friendly
matches against a team of Cuban defectors, as part of a
government-sanctioned U.S. tour. And finally, aging Cuban stars have been
allowed to play professional baseball in Japan and Mexico during
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