By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES – Yulieski Gourriel (Yuli Gurriel in MLB) hoped to visit relatives in Cuba at the end of January after a five year absence from his home country. However, a few minutes before boarding his plane the airlines told him the Cuban government forbid his entry to the island, reported 14ymedio.
Gourriel was one of the top Cuban baseball players for over a decade. Praised dozens of times by Fidel Castro, the Communist Party media, and the island’s leaders and fans, he became persona-non-grata one fine day in 2016.
Yuli and his younger brother Lourdes Jr. decided they wanted to play baseball at the highest level and also earn a salary accord with their abilities. Yuli, now 37, became a star first baseman for the Houston Astros and Lourdes Jr., 28, is a key player, both as an outfielder and infielder, for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Yuli won the batting title in the American League of Major League Baseball in 2021 and played in the World Series, which his Houston Astros lost to the Atlanta Braves.
The plan of the baseball star was to arrive in Varadero to spend a holiday with his relatives. When he was denied the possibility of boarding his flight and entering Cuba it was a reminder that athletes used by the Cuban government to promote its Sports successes are considered traitors if they abandon ship.
Just like doctors who work abroad on government contracts and decide to abandon the program or decide to stay when the contract is over, they automatically are banned from entering Cuba for at least eight years. The cruel measure has divided many families.
It appears that Yuli thought five years absence might be enough punishment, but the government was not making any exceptions and he was denied entry on orders “from above”.