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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 23:10 GMT
Cuban baseball stars defect
By Stephen Gibbs
BBC, Havana

Two Cuban baseball stars have defected from the Communist-led island with the apparent intention of playing professional baseball in the United States.

Fidel Castro
The loss of the stars will embarrass Cuba
Maels Rodriguez and Yobal Duenas are currently in hiding in an undisclosed country.

Every year a handful of Cuba's sportsmen and women defect, often lured by the prospect of multi-million dollar contracts.

The two men went missing from Cuba last Saturday.

It appears they left the island on board a boat.

They have since spoken to a Miami radio station from an undisclosed hideaway.

Both confirmed their intention to play major league baseball in the United States.

Lucrative deals

Most attention is being paid to the younger of the two.

The 24-year-old pitcher, Maels Rodriguez, although believed to be injured, is potentially one of the best players ever to leave Cuba.

Here he would have been paid around $20 a month.

In the United States, he can seek a contract worth tens of millions of dollars.

Despite limited resources, Cuba consistently produces some of the world's top baseball players and just last week won the sport's world cup.

'Treachery'

These defections will be a blow to the Cuban authorities and the country's number one sports fan, President Fidel Castro.

The news has already been seized upon by anti-Castro groups in Miami as evidence of the lack of opportunity on this Communist-led island.

For its part, the Cuban Government has not yet chosen to comment but in the past has portrayed its sporting defectors as traitors lured by greed not freedom.


SEE ALSO:
US to tighten Cuba sanctions
10 Oct 03  |  Americas
Cuba revolution hits 50 years
25 Jul 03  |  Americas
Timeline: US-Cuba relations
10 Oct 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Cuba
04 Jun 03  |  Country profiles


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