The much anticipated Intercontinental Baseball Series, set to take place in Barranquilla, Colombia from January 26th to February 1st, 2024, has been abruptly cancelled due to pressure from the Cuban government and its allies in Colombia.
Background on the Intercontinental Baseball Series
The series was organized by Edgar Renteria’s Team Renteria USA and was to feature national teams from Colombia, Curacao, South Korea, Japan, the United States and a team of Cuban players based in the US called the “Dream Team”.
The Dream Team was made up of Cuban baseball stars who defected from Cuba to play in the US, including Yulieski Gurriel, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Aroldis Chapman, Yandy Diaz and Jorge Soler.
It was backed by the Cuban Professional Baseball Federation (FEPCUBE), an independent organization not recognized by Cuba’s state baseball federation.
Originally, the Dream Team wanted to compete under the name “Patria y Vida” (Homeland and Life), taken from the popular anti-government protest song in Cuba. They also planned to wear Cuban national symbols on their uniforms.
However, this drew strong opposition from the Cuban government, who claimed FEPCUBE had no right to use national symbols without state approval.
Colombia Bows to Cuban Pressure
In an attempt to salvage the Dream Team’s participation, FEPCUBE agreed to competed under a generic “Dream Team” name and drop any Cuban national symbols.Cuba: Date of the next Capablanca in Memoriam Chess Tournament is modified
But Cuba’s communist government continued to apply pressure, now on their allies in Colombia’s leftist administration led by President Gustavo Petro.
Colombia’s sports ministry and Olympic committee released a joint statement saying they could not sanction an event involving a team not recognized by Cuba. They also questioned FEPCUBE’s right to use Cuban national symbols.
Baseball Collateral Damage in Cuba-Colombia Relations
Sources indicate Colombia’s acquiescence to Cuban pressure was likely part of maintaining relations amid Colombia’s bid to host the 2027 Pan American Games.
Despite Team Renteria’s efforts to find a solution, they were forced to announce the cancellation of the entire series, citing lack of support from Colombia’s government.
Reaction from FEPCUBE and Cuba
In a scathing statement, FEPCUBE accused Cuba’s “despotic” government of extending its “repressive tentacles” beyond its borders to prevent Cuban players from taking part.
They said Cuba felt threatened by the media and political attention being drawn to the Dream Team.Industriales team roster for the 61st National Baseball Series announced
Cuba has condemned FEPCUBE as illegitimate and a tool of US imperialism. State media published the cancellation announcement without commentary.
What Next for the Baseball Dream Team?
Team Renteria says they are looking for alternative host countries to stage the series. But Cuba’s influence in the region may make that difficult.
For now, FEPCUBE plans exhibition games in Miami as they continue their mission of providing opportunities for Cuban players outside state control.
While a symbolic blow to Cuban defectors, the cancellation illustrates the challenges facing Cuban exile efforts to undermine the communist regime’s power – even in the apolitical realm of sports.
Politics and baseball are never far apart when it comes to US-Cuba relations. The Intercontinental Baseball Series became entangled in the complex dynamics between Cuba, Colombia and Cuban exiles. Its cancellation represents both a setback and an opportunity to further expose Cuba’s repressive control over society.The Cuban government gives Peugeot and Mercedes Benz cars as gifts to sports stars