MIAMI (AP) - It's just baseball, right?
For Cubans living in exile in South Florida, the game between the Baltimore
Orioles and the Cuban national team represented politics - Fidel Castro
''Fidel uses sports, the arts, whatever he can to promote his politics.
just more of the same,'' said Arnaldo Bosque of Miami. ''What he is
interested in is in promoting his cause and popularity - being treated like a
Many Cubans in Miami oppose the game and are eager to let people
outside the predominantly Hispanic Miami know just why.
Several hundred Cubans from Miami, Tampa, New Jersey, New York and
Washington made the trip to Baltimore to protest the game outside
Cubans in Miami staged their demonstration on Calle Ocho - or 8th Street
- the main drag in the city's Little Havana neighborhood. More than a 100
people gathered to show their opposition to any kind of U.S.-Cuba
relations, whether on the baseball field or in a conference room.
''It's wrong for the United States to have a friendly relationship with
said Miguel Saaverdra, president of Vigilia Mambisa, a human rights
organization. ''In Cuba, Castro doesn't give anyone rights. People in Cuba
are dying. They are being persecuted. Everything is done to benefit tourists,
and that's at the sacrifice of human rights.''
Monday's game marked the first time a Cuban team has played a major
league team in the United States.
When the two teams first met in Havana in March, Cubans here couldn't
help but watch the Orioles defeat their former home team 3-2 in 11 innings.
The same Cuban restaurants where locals packed tables to watch the first
game between the two ball clubs were mostly empty Monday.
At Latin American Restaurant on Coral Way in Miami, the televisions were
tuned to Spanish soap operas and popular prime-time sitcoms.
''It's Monday, people have just paid their rent and their taxes,'' said
Rodriguez, manger of Sergios, a Cuban sports bar.
Only four people asked to watch the game at Sergio's, a Little Havana
sports bar. Manager Carlos Rodriguez avoided watching the game, but
said he wanted the Orioles to win.
''Any victory for the Cuban team would be a victory for Castro,''
Rodriguez said. ''And that's not good for any Cuban.''
Like Rodriguez, many Cubans vowed not to watch, regardless of their
''It will just be a bunch of Castro's slaves taking the field,'' said Raimundo
Pereira-Hernandez, a bartender. ''None of those players has the freedom
to leave the country and play ball anywhere else. If they don't tow the
political line, they don't even get a chance to play.''
Baseball fan Julio Arango said he would watch the game, and he accepts
the fact that it is more than just baseball.
''Castro must be loving this,'' he said. ''We are playing into his hands.
getting a lot of publicity out of this.''
© Copyright 1999 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.