Cuban immigration authorities denied this Saturday, January 29, entry to Cuba to baseball player Yulieski Gourriel, who left the Cuban team at the 2016 Caribbean Series held in the Dominican Republic.
Gourriel’s relatives were left waiting for him in Varadero, where they were going to spend a few days of vacation together, as announced by the Swing Completo portal.
The refusal to enter the country was only communicated to Gourriel, player of the Houston Astros, a few moments before boarding the flight that would take him to Havana.
One of his relatives posted the news on social networks: “Heading to Varadero for the reunion of the Gourriel Castillo family. The protagonist will be absent for reasons beyond his control, but by the will of others”.
Gourriel, a 37-year-old baseball player, left the Cuban national team in 2016 along with his younger brother, Lourdes Gourriel Jr.
A few months after his arrival in the United States, he signed a contract with the Houston Astros, a Major League Baseball team, for four years in exchange for $56 million.
Swing Completo sources assure that Gourriel’s entry, scheduled for this Saturday, January 29, would take place without problems because “everything was in order” in reference to the Island’s immigration authorities.
However, at the last minute, a decision “taken from above” scuttled what would be the first visit of the baseball player to Cuba since his abandonment of the official delegation in 2016.
Gourriel served five years in February 2021 after leaving the Cuban national team, but most athletes considered defectors must suffer a punishment or penalty of eight years in which they cannot return to the Island after absconding from a national team during an international competition.
The escape of two members of the so-called “Gourriel clan”, one of Cuba’s most distinguished sports families, surprised experts and fans at the time.
Yulieski was seen as one of the main prospects to reach agreements between Cuban sports authorities and the major leagues, an opportunity that has been deflated over the years after Donald Trump came to power. The situation has not changed during Baiden’s Democratic administration.
In recent days, Lisban Correa, El Billy, spent more than two hours in Havana’s José Martí airport before being sent back to Panama after being banned from entering the country due to his inclusion on the list of deserted athletes for having abandoned a contract while playing in Mexico.
In the last six years, official figures show that at least 635 baseball players have left Cuba.
If the entire last decade is taken into account, 862 athletes from various disciplines have left the island and, since 2012, 2,344 coaches have fled, 85 of them at a very high level.