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World Baseball Classic 2023 leads to protests and a Cuban national team player defecting

The Cuban national team played against the US at the World Baseball Classic in Miami

After losing to the US team in the World Baseball Classic in Miami on Sunday, the Cuban national team arrived in Havana on Monday without its player known as Ivan Prieto Gonzalez. Major League Baseball officials confirmed he is a 26-year-old catcher, that has defected.

On Sunday, 19th March 2023, the US national team played against Cuba in the World Baseball Classic. The fans donned blue, red, and white gear—the colors of both nations.

This contentious match fueled the political rivalry between both teams and their fans. The Cuban American protestors slammed the Cuban government for repressing its own people. More details are in the news below.

World Baseball Classic sparked protests

The Cuban community and resistance leaders assembled outside LoanDepot Park on Sunday to denounce the Cuban government for keeping hundreds of Cuban political prisoners in jails. They also protested to express frustration with the government for using sports to manipulate the island’s people.

This happened while the United States and Cuban teams faced off on 19th March 21, 2023, in the 1st semifinal of WBC in Miami. The tension outside and inside the ballpark was palpable as protestors used expletive-heavy signs to denounce Miguel Diaz Canel, a Cuban leader.

The police officers guarded and patrolled the ballpark to monitor the crowd and direct traffic. The president of Democracy Movement—a non-profit government advocating democratic changes—Ramon Saul Sanchez, expressed his gratitude towards protestors for using freedom of expression.

The 68-year-old organizer of the protest, Sanchez, set up posters that said “Free the Cuban political prisoners” with a wall of other posters and messages. The wall also displayed pictures of missing children.

Audience watching a baseball game

Condemning the dictatorship; not the baseball

Sanchez emphasized that the purpose of their protest was to condemn and denounce the island’s dictatorship, not the national baseball team. According to him, the Cuban government and Diaz Canel are distracting the world from what they’re doing to the Cuban people. He called the baseball game a trap to shift people’s focus away from fair and free elections.

Miami’s popular YouTube influencer, Alex Otaola, also participated in the protest carrying a megaphone. He reiterated the need to liberate Cuba from Diaz Canel’s dictatorship. Among the protestors was Andrea Rodriguez, 24, wearing a t-shirt that said “Homeland and Life”. She is a passionate baseball fan and believes that this message will reach thousands of people watching the World Baseball Classic globally.

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