Opinion
Reading Los Angeles: Join The Times' new book club
Opinion Editorial
Editorial

Dodger Yasiel Puig's long road around the Cuba embargo

Fleeing Cuba is harrowing and costly, whether it's done in a flimsy boat headed for U.S. shores or a speedboat headed for Mexico. Yasiel Puig, the gifted Dodgers outfielder, set off on the latter route, smuggled out by men who then threatened his life and held him hostage in a Mexican motel. A Florida man with a small-time criminal past helped get him out; in exchange, Puig promised to pay the man 20% of his lifetime earnings.

Puig's difficult journey was the result of the longtime U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, which, among other things, makes it illegal for Major League Baseball to hire players directly from Cuba, a veritable incubator of baseball talent. Instead, players must defect, either escaping directly to the U.S., where they would enter the MLB draft of amateur baseball players, or going first to a third country, establishing residency and then presenting themselves as free agents. That gives them more leverage to negotiate bigger, better contracts. Both ways are risky.

No Cuban should have to endure the kind of hardship and danger Puig faced, as detailed in an article in Los Angeles magazine chronicling his odyssey from a Cuban national team, where he earned a pittance, to Los Angeles, where he signed a seven-year, $42-million contract. Puig's tale is just one more example of why it's past time to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. The embargo causes significant economic pain for Cubans and yet has failed to achieve its objective of forcing the Castro regime out of power. Fidel Castro and his brother Raul have been in power since 1959.

Obviously, one solution would be for Major League Baseball not to hire Cuban defectors, so that talented players aren't motivated to risk their lives and earnings by trying to escape Cuba. But that's not going to happen. There are an estimated 21 former Cuban nationals playing major league baseball. Over the last two decades, more than 200 baseball players and dozens of other athletes have fled Cuba. Interestingly, last fall, Cuban officials said they would allow their athletes to travel outside the country to play in foreign countries, as long as they paid taxes on their earnings and returned to Cuba to fulfill their athletic obligations there. This won't necessarily make it easier for Cubans to get contracts to play in the U.S. As far as the U.S. is concerned, hiring a Cuban citizen, with or without Cuba's blessing, is still banned.

At this point, the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba is an ineffective relic of another era. And it's only hurting Cubans and Americans alike.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Is it time for the U.S. to shake Cuba's hand too?
    Is it time for the U.S. to shake Cuba's hand too?

    Long a political land mine, normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba may be developing momentum.

  • The USA Freedom Act: A smaller Big Brother
    The USA Freedom Act: A smaller Big Brother

    Last fall, Congress was on the verge of doing away with the most troubling invasion of privacy revealed by Edward Snowden: the National Security Agency's indiscriminate collection of the telephone records of millions of Americans. But then opponents cited the emergence of Islamic State as a reason...

  • Britain's election: A muddle across the pond
    Britain's election: A muddle across the pond

    Americans exasperated by the gridlock in Washington sometimes look enviously at Britain, where the parliamentary system combines executive and legislative duties and the prime minister almost always gets his or her way. Unlike a president who may face a Congress controlled by the other party —...

  • There's no place for graffiti in America's national parks
    There's no place for graffiti in America's national parks

    City dwellers can argue over whether graffiti is vandalism or art or some strange hybrid of the two. But when it appears in national parks, there should be no question: It's desecration.

  • Does Congress know we're at war?
    Does Congress know we're at war?

    When President Obama announced nine months ago that the United States was going to war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Congress reached an unusual near-consensus on two big points: Entering the fight was a good idea, but it was also important that the legislative branch formally authorize...

  • Chris Christie's political 'machine' — it's not such a bad thing
    Chris Christie's political 'machine' — it's not such a bad thing

    Here's a question whose answer may seem obvious, but isn't. Which is worse, a system in which political hacks can cause a massive traffic jam as a form of political payback, or a system in which it's a federal crime for political hacks to exact such retribution?

Comments
Loading