CubaBrief: Reflection on Cuban player winning 2021 World Series MVP. Jailed Cuban artist featured in 2021 Pre-Olympic baseball tournament. More on #N15

Five Cuban baseball players played a major role in the 2021 World Series matchup between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves, and one of them made the history books. “Braves outfielder Jorge Soler was named 2021 World Series MVP on Tuesday night [November 2, 2021] after he helped Atlanta capture its first World Series title in 26 years. In Game 6 against the Astros, Soler had the most memorable hit of the series, demolishing a three-run home run to put the Braves ahead for good in the title-clinching game,” reported CBS Sports. The news outfit also noted that “Soler was the second Cuban-born MVP in World Series history (joining Livan Hernandez of the 1997 Marlins).”

Jorge Soler named 2021 World Series MVP

A day earlier, SethRock, a Cuban-American junior studying economics and international relations at Colgate University,in an OpEd publishedin theHouston Chroniclelisted the Cuban players on both teams and their shared experience beyond baseball.”Yordan Álvarez. Aledmys Díaz. Yuli Gurriel. What do three Astros players vying for the title of World Series champions have in common with their opponents, Guillermo Heredia and Jorge Soler of the Atlanta Braves? They each made the decision to defect from Cuba — and have opportunities denied to them in their homeland — in order to realize their immense talent in the United States. To play in Major League Baseball means to forfeit life in Cuba and be branded a traitor by the Cuban government.”

Three Cuban players on the same team in the World series: Yordan Álvarez. Aledmys Díaz. Yuli Gurriel.

Worse yet, your family members are also targeted. Livan Hernandez, mentioned above by CBS News, was the first Cuban-born MVP in World Series history who assisted the 1997 Florida Marlins in their victory. He defected from Cuba in 1995, but his brother Orlando, a superior ball player and loyal to the Revolution, remained behind to continue playing baseball in Cuba, but the Cuban dictatorship tried to punish Livan by making his brother suffer. Bronx Pin Stripes described what happened to Orlando in “The Legend of the Duke“:

“Overnight, El Duque’s world had changed. As the Cuban government learned of Livan’s escape, they decided to punish the Hernandez brother still living on the island. Once the greatest pitcher in Cuba, Orlando quickly became the new public enemy of the Castro regime. To start, he was left off the 1996 Cuban Olympic roster. Next, he was banned from the domestic league and was finally barred from stepping onto a baseball diamond. He even made the front-page of the official state newspaper where he was labeled a mafioso, a criminal and a traitor. His monthly stipend was cut, his marriage crumbled, and he had to move into a windowless shack. No longer a professional athlete, Hernandez found work teaching calisthenics at a local psychiatric hospital. Meanwhile, his younger brother was a world away. The Marlins would win the World Series in seven games over Cleveland and he was named the World Series MVP. While Livan was thumping his chest and shouting, “I love you Miami!” his brother knew it was time to leave his home country …”

Sports Illustrated described Orlando, also known as ” El Duque” (The Duke), as “the Joe Jackson of Cuba, banned from baseball and living in a shack behind the house of his best friend.” He was told by Cuban officials that “he would never play baseball again.” On December 25, 1997 Orlando Hernandez fled Cuba on a boat and defected. He would go on to play in the Major Leagues for the New York Yankees, and other baseball teams retiring from the game in 2011.

Cuban baseball players Livan Hernández and Orlando “El Duque” Hernández

Cuba has a long history with baseball. When American baseball was racially segregated it was in Cuba where during the winters, in the racially integrated Cuban League black and white American baseball players played together. With the arrival of the Castro dictatorship this ended, and the years of communist repression changed Cuba forever, and the regime sought to use baseball in the service of positive propaganda for the communist autocracy.

This past summer when tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets to protest for an end to the dictatorship and for freedom thousands were jailed, several hundred remain behind bars, and the international pro-regime propaganda narrative fell to pieces. In Canada, the story of a Cuban-Canadian teenager jailed and in poor health has been in the news.

“Michael Carey Abadin, 19, was living in Old Havana with his Cuban mother when spontaneous protests broke out on the island on July 11. He was planning to leave and study in Canada and already had a plane ticket, his mother told CBC News, but his flights were repeatedly cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” reported the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

Michael is a Canadian citizen but that did not stop Cuban officials from jailing him, and placing him on a “work brigade” to do hard labor. He was arrested on July 12, 2021 and accused of throwing a rock at a patrol car. He is being charged “with damage to public property” The dictatorship is “seeking a five- to six-year prison sentence” for the young man. Since his arrest Michael “contracted COVID-19 in custody and then hepatitis and HSV-1 (non-genital herpes), which is widespread in Cuban prisons.” His condition has become so severe that he was transferred to an infirmary.

Kiele Alessandra Cabrera momentarily stopped the baseball game demanding a free Cuba, and freedom for political prisoners.

Earlier on May 31, 2021 the Castro regime lost a Pre-Olympic qualifying baseball game to Maduro’s Venezuelan team while hundreds of Cubans and Venezuelans came together to protest their respective dictatorships and join together in their rejection of communism reported Declan Walsh of The Palm Beach Post. Kiele Alessandra Cabrera (age 23) momentarily stopped the game between Cuba and Venezuela for two minutes, during the Pre-Olympic Tournament of the Americas. She jumped onto the field with a poster that read: “Free Cuba” and had an image of an extended arm with a fist with a handcuff hanging off the wrist.

The significance of the poster references an image made viral when the police tried to arrest Cuban rapper Maykel Castillo ‘Osorbo’ on April 4, 2021 but the San Isidro neighborhood turned against the regime agents and they had to flee. Maykel raised the one arm the police had managed to cuff in a gesture of defiance, and the image was recorded.

Cuban prisoner of conscience Maykel Castillo ‘Osorbo’

On October 29, 2021 a recording made in prison by Maykel Osorbo explains the reasons for his hunger and thirst fast in a CNN article published on October 29, 2021:

“I fast for the cessation of the pandemic and the sad agony in which my people have found themselves for 63 years, overwhelmed by a dictatorship that is corrupting our bodies. And above all things I fast so that blood does not continue to be shed for wanting to think differently”, he affirms. In the end, the singer says that he resorts to this measure for his freedom and for that of all political prisoners in the country.

Reports emerged on November 3rd that Maykel Castillo had ended his hunger and thirst fast. At the same time there are reports that Cuban human rights defender Virgilo Mantilla Arango, based in Cienfuegos, on Monday, November 1st marked 12 days on hunger strike, and his wife was extremely concerned about his health.

Prisoner of conscience Virgilio Mantilla Arango on hunger strike in Cuba.

Conditions in Cuban prisons are not subject to international inspections. The International Committee of the Red Cross was last able to visit a Cuban prison in 1989.

Cubans inside and outside the island are preparing to assemble peacefully on November 15th in civic marches on the same day that government officials reopen the tourist industry in order to demand the release of all political prisoners. “After the July 11 protests, human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch criticized the Cuban government’s criminalization of dissent. ‘The situation now is very tense.’ Leticia Ramos, an activist in Cuba, said in Spanish during a phone call Tuesday. Ramos also said the demonstration will go on despite the fear of reprisal because most Cubans are tired of the food shortages. She anticipates police violence,” reported Hatzel Vela of Local10 News.

Cubans in the island are paying a high price for their nonviolent dissent, and it is incumbent on people of goodwill abroad to amplify their voices, hold the regime accountable, and let the world know what is going on in Cuba that is suffering under the longest existing totalitarian dictatorship in the Americas. Today, all is politicized in Cuba, and has been for decades, but too many fail to ask important questions.

Why is it that rappers are beaten, and jailed for singing a song and the visual artist for producing a video for it?

Why do Cuban baseball players and musicians need to defect?

Why is it that human rights defenders are jailed?

The answer to these questions is simple: Because Cuba is a dictatorship.

Following a democratic transition in Cuba, Cuban ball players and artists like in the rest of the free world, will be able to play with whom they want as far as their talents will take them. There will be no defectors enduring forced exile, artists jailed, or family members punished by officials to make their loved ones suffer for wanting to live in freedom. Human rights defenders will be able to report on human rights violations and peacefully assemble to protest government abuses.

CBS Sports, November 3, 2021

World Series MVP: Braves’ Jorge Soler becomes second Cuban-born player to win the award

Soler hit three (go-ahead) homers in the series, including a 446-foot shot in Game 6

USATSI

Braves outfielder Jorge Soler was named 2021 World Series MVP on Tuesday night after he helped Atlanta capture its first World Series title in 26 years. In Game 6 against the Astros, Soler had the most memorable hit of the series, demolishing a three-run home run to put the Braves ahead for good in the title-clinching game.

It was the exclamation point on a memorable series for Soler, who came into Game 6 against the Astros with a robust slash line of .294/.368/.706 through the first five games. Then in the third inning Tuesday night, he came up with two on and two out against Luis Garcia, who, pitching on short rest, suddenly looked vulnerable after dominating in the first two innings. 

Just prior to the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Soler had scalded back-to-back foul balls, and it was obvious he had Garcia timed up pretty well. On that eighth pitch, Garcia threw something in between a slider and a cutter down and in, but the pitch lingered in the zone a bit too long. Soler, suffice it to say, did not miss:

That one left the bat at 109.6 mph and traveled an estimated 446 feet. That moonshot merits another angle:

That was Soler’s third homer of the series, and he became just the fourth Brave ever to hit three home runs in a single World Series. Soler joins Hank Aaron in 1957, Lonnie Smith in 1991, and Ryan Klesko in 1995. More impressively, Soler had three go-ahead homers in this series, and that put him in exclusive company: 

Soler, the second Cuban-born MVP in World Series history (joining Livan Hernandez of the 1997 Marlins), originally joined the Braves at the trade deadline. In 55 games with Atlanta, he hit .269/.358/.524 (128 OPS+) with 14 home runs. He’d previously hit .192/.288/.370 (76 OPS+) with 13 home runs in 94 contests with the Royals. Soler, scheduled to become a free agent this winter, was one of several notable additions Atlanta made to its outfield at the deadline, alongside Eddie RosarioJoc Pederson, and Adam Duvall.

https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/world-series-mvp-braves-jorge-soler-becomes-second-cuban-born-player-to-win-the-award/

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, November 3, 2021

Cuba puts sick Canadian political prisoner on hard labour

Michael Carey Abadin, 19, denied consular visits, sent to a ‘work brigade’ while awaiting trial

By Evan Dyer, CBC

Michael Carey Abadin is pictured with his mother, Yvis Abadin, in Cuba. Yvis Abadin says her son, a Canadian citizen, is in prison in Cuba for throwing a rock at a patrol car, an accusation she denies. (Yvis Abadin)

A Canadian citizen jailed by Cuban authorities during unprecedented protests for political change on the island has been sent to a “work brigade” to do hard labour despite serious health problems, according to his family and advocates.

Michael Carey Abadin, 19, was living in Old Havana with his Cuban mother when spontaneous protests broke out on the island on July 11. He was planning to leave and study in Canada and already had a plane ticket, his mother told CBC News, but his flights were repeatedly cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was arrested the day after protests broke out in at least 40 cities across the island and accused of throwing a rock at a patrol car. Prosecutors have charged him with damage to public property and are seeking a five- to six-year prison sentence.

The young man first contracted COVID-19 in custody and then hepatitis and HSV-1 (non-genital herpes), which is widespread in Cuban prisons. Ultimately his condition became so severe that he was transferred to the infirmary at Jovenes de Occidente prison on the outskirts of Havana.

‘Even worse condition than before’

Hepatitis caused his skin to turn yellow, and herpetic lesions spread over his body.

His mother, Yvis Abadin, says she was visited by a police captain at home after CBC News first published details of his detention. Shortly after that, her son was taken out of the infirmary and put into a “work brigade”, cutting brush with a machete.

“My son is in even worse condition than before,” she said. “Now he has lesions on his legs that are suppurating.”

Officials at the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa and in Havana have not responded to questions about his detention or the charges against him.

Hard labour

Work brigades (“brigadas de trabajo“) are a common feature of the Cuban prison system, said Juan Pappier of Human Rights Watch. “They use the prisoners for agricultural work, building work, normally very tough work in abusive conditions.”

Pappier said that in some cases such an assignment could be a harbinger of good news. “Sometimes this happens just before some kind of parole.”

But Pappier also noted that releases of political prisoners in Cuba have slowed down as the government braces for new protests planned for November.

Of approximately 3,000 people detained on July 11 and 12 this year, most were released within a short period of time, often under strict conditions or into house arrest. Many have already undergone summary trials and received sentences of up to one year. Over 500 remain in prison and the Cuban state is seeking sentences of up to 18 years in those cases. 

‘Horrible’ prison conditions

Prisoners in Cuba are typically not fed properly, and family members are expected to bring food for them to the prison, as Yvis Abadin has been doing.

She told CBC News that she rises at 5 a.m. every day to try to obtain basic supplies to take to her son and then has a long journey each way on public transport. Cubans stand in line for hours to purchase basic necessities and are only allowed to purchase a small amount at a time.

Yvis Abadin says she’s only allowed to see him for a few minutes every two weeks. Most days she merely delivers supplies such as crackers and chips.

On a per capita basis, Cuba imprisons about five times as many people as Canada. “This is a country that imprisons a lot of people and the prisons have horrible conditions,” said Pappier.

Police officers are the only witnesses against Michael Carey Abadin, whose mother says was arrested at random by men in civilian clothes an hour after somebody else threw a rock at a police car.

Michael Carey Abadin and Yvis Abadin are pictured at home in Old Havana, Cuba. (Yvis Abadin)

Consular visits denied

Cuban law does not ban dual citizenship, but does not recognize foreign nationality for any Cuban citizen who is on Cuban territory. For that reason, Cuba has not allowed Canadian consular officials to visit Abadin in prison, as required by the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs, to which both Cuba and Canada are signatories.

On Monday, Canadian consular case management officer Crystal Persaud wrote to Yvis Abadin that, “I assure you that Michael’s case is of utmost importance to the Government of Canada, and consular officials remain engaged with Cuban authorities as they work to obtain consular access and communicate directly with your son.”

But Canada has not made any public démarches with the Cuban government over the issue.

Yvis Abadin says the Canadian government is not doing enough for her son.

It’s not the first time that family members and advocates for Canadians imprisoned in Cuba have complained of little help from Canadian authorities focused on maintaining good relations with the regime in Havana.

While there are a number of Canadian citizens in prison in Cuba for reasons ranging from boating accidents to business disputes, Abadin is the only one held as a result of this year’s pro-democracy protests and considered a political prisoner by groups such as Human Rights Watch.

The Liberal government has sought to maintain close ties with Cuba’s one-party regime, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described as an “ally” when he visited the Cuban leadership in Havana in one of his first overseas trips as prime minister.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/michael-carey-abadin-1.6234738


Houston Chronicle, November 2, 2021

Opinion: When you cheer for Cuban Astros players, remember why they defected

By Seth Rock

Yordan Álvarez. Aledmys Díaz. Yuli Gurriel. What do three Astros players vying for the title of World Series champions have in common with their opponents, Guillermo Heredia and Jorge Soler of the Atlanta Braves? They each made the decision to defect from Cuba — and have opportunities denied to them in their homeland — in order to realize their immense talent in the United States. To play in Major League Baseball means to forfeit life in Cuba and be branded a traitor by the Cuban government.

During historic protests in July, Cubans shouted “Patria y Vida” or “Homeland and Life,” expressing their desire to control their own destiny and that of their home — something impossible to achieve if the current regime stays in power. While food shortages and lack of access to vaccines played a part in spurring the protests, as noted in this summer’s media coverage, the overwhelming message is that political change is what the people seek. Americans and the U.S. government should not mistake the Cuban people’s demands for liberty as a sign of being unpatriotic, but rather as a form of optimism rooted in loyalty to their country.

A few weeks ago, at least nine of the 24 players on Cuba’s national baseball team sent to compete in Mexico for a tournament made the same decision these MLB players made: to defect. Cuban officials labeled this spell of defections as “vile abandonments” and swiftly slandered the young ballplayers as possessing “weak morals and ethics.” Individuals labeled “deserters” are banned from entering Cuba for at least eight years and their family members are prohibited from leaving the country to join them.
Three Cuban players defected during an Olympic qualification tournament in May, and for the first time in its history, the Caribbean nation failed to qualify for Olympic baseball. This contrasts with Cuba’s illustrious run that earned them three gold and two silver medals; for comparison, the U.S. has won one gold, one silver and two bronze medals.

During Fidel Castro’s ascent to power in 1959, Cuba was MLB’s primary source of baseball talent from Latin America, with 16 players in the league (the Dominican Republic — another source of baseball talent — had two). The flow of Cuban players slowed to a trickle in the following decades, until rising in the 1990s during Cuba’s “Special Period” which saw a wave of defections occur after the collapse of the Soviet Union. American baseball has benefited greatly from this influx; Álvarez was just named most valuable player of this year’s American League Championship Series and Randy Arozarena of the Tampa Bay Rays, a fellow Cuban, earned the same honor the year before.

To understand why freedom is so desired by Cubans one need only look at the government’s response to the thousands who called for an end to the 62-year-old communist government. The protesters were met by riot police who used rubber bullets and tear gas; telecommunications were cut off in an effort to prevent communication between protesters as well as with foreign media. Of the over 1,000 individuals who were arrested, at least half remain detained or under house arrest today.

As we root for the Astros, and the Cuban players who contribute to the team’s success, we must acknowledge the cost of their gift. Any efforts by the Cuban Communist Party to label dissidents as traitors should be rejected. Instead, we should show strong support for their struggle for freedom, as our issue lies not with the Cuban people but with their government. Cuba’s loss, both in baseball players and people, has been America’s gain and freedom is at the root of both.

Seth Rock is a Cuban-American junior studying economics and international relations at Colgate University.

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/Opinion-When-you-cheer-for-Cuban-Astros-players-16583624.php

Local10.com, November 2, 2021

‘People are tired’: Cuban activists plan November demonstrations

By Hatzel Vela

Activists in Cuba are preparing to meet on Nov. 15th for public demonstrations just as government officials reopen the tourist industry.

After the July 11 protests, human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the Cuban government’s criminalization of dissent.

“The situation now is very tense.” Leticia Ramos, an activist in Cuba, said in Spanish during a phone call Tuesday.

Ramos also said the demonstration will go on despite the fear of reprisal because most Cubans are tired of the food shortages. She anticipates police violence.

Last month, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel accused the U.S. of orchestrating the protests.

Meanwhile, some Cubans in Miami-Dade County, including Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat, are planning to host demonstrations in solidarity with the Cubans on the island.

“If they repress nationally then the Cuban exile community will have the perfect platform to advocate for more sanctions against this regime in Europe and the United States,” said Gutierrez-Boronat, of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a nongovernmental organization.

A group will meet at 9 a.m. on Sunday at the Memorial Cubano in Tamiami Park, at 11201 SW 24th St. They will lead a caravan eastbound along Eighth Street to meet boaters in an area near the Freedom Tower.

https://www.local10.com/news/local/2021/11/02/people-are-tired-cuban-activists-plan-november-demonstrations/