Cuba Gives Green Light to Athletes to Sign in Foreign Leagues

By Isaac Risco

Alfredo Despaigne and Yordanis Samón were two of the players that played ball this year with the Campeche Pirates during the Cuban League off season.

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban authorities made a 180 degree turn by officially announcing today that athletes can sign in the future with teams in foreign leagues if they meet a few requirements, reported dpa news.

The reform will be implemented “in the coming months,” and seeks “to generate revenue” and “gradually increase wages,” reported the official Granma daily. In Cuba restrictions have been in place for decades for its high-level athletes.

Coaches, trainers and other specialists will also benefit from the reform, said Granma. The warming towards professional sports comes amid the process of market economic reforms from the Raul Castro administration.

The top athletes now have “the possibility of signing with teams abroad,” approved over the weekend by the Council of Ministers.

Professional sports were abolished in Cuba in 1962. Since then, Cuban athletes were forbidden to work as professionals or joining foreign teams. Ever since, athletes wanting to turn pro routinely deserted the islands teams when traveling abroad for international events.

The reform, which includes a salary increase at home, seeks to improve the income of athletes and give them better conditions without them having to stop competing on the island. “When seeking permission to sign a foreign contract, the presence of the athlete in Cuba for the main competitions of the year will be taken into account,” said Granma.

The information did not detail whether the reform will include the possibility that Cuban players signing directly with Major League Baseball teams in the United States, also complicated by the US embargo on Cuba.

The changes announced today will also provide a number of new wage incentives for active athletes on the island.

Among them is also the athletes right to keep the full amount, after taxes, of prizes won in international sporting events. Until now it was common for such cash income to flow to state coffers.

The reform is part of the “updating” of the Cuban economic model with market elements, similar to the process of opening up of China and Vietnam in past decades.

The new salary policy will apply from January 2014, with the exception of baseball where it will take effect this November when the Cuban League play begins.

In July, the Cuban Baseball Federation announced that it had authorized the signing of baseball players with professional clubs in Mexico as part of “inserting Cuban baseball in the world.” Shortly after, the authorities allowed three players to play for the Mexican professional team Campeche Pirates.

The arrival of executives of another Mexican club then generated speculation on the island of more contacts to come with Cuban players. The Cuban federation denied that possibility, saying any new signings was momentarily “delayed”.

In recent times the island has also taken steps to join the World Series of Boxing (semi-professional) of the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA).

5 thoughts on “Cuba Gives Green Light to Athletes to Sign in Foreign Leagues

  • How about free and democratic elections? How about protecting human rights and freedoms in Cuba? Agreeing to rent out enslaved athletes at extortionist rates is not a concession to anybody. It’s just the latest cynical tactic to bring in hard cash for the Castro regime.

  • As usual. The Cuban government makes the changes the “Free World” has been calling for, resulting not in any recognition of change or flexibility by the willfully blind Cuba – haters — just more criticism.

  • The Castro “goverment” most likely keep about 2/3 of the money paid to
    these athletes as it does with its doctors!

    ABC NEWS: Why Brazil Is Importing Cuban Doctors Amid Protests – by Santiago
    Wills – Sep. 8, 2013

    The Cuban doctors, who are paid $30 a month or less on the communist
    island, have an even greater incentive to head abroad. In Brazil they will earn
    around $4,250 per month, and even though the Cuban government will retain as
    much as two thirds of their salary, Cuban doctors will still be left with an
    amount of cash that is astronomically greater than what they make at home.

  • Fidel’s pompous declarations about ‘revolutionary baseball and the nobility of the Cuban athlete’ seem to have come full circle. I hope he lives long enough to witness how foolishly arrogant and destructive his policies were.

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