HAVANA (Reuters) – One of Cuba’s top baseball players, Cesar Prieto, has defected after arriving in Florida with the national team to compete in an Olympics qualifying tournament.
“His decision, contrary to the commitment made to the people and the team, has generated repudiation among his teammates and other members of the delegation,” Cuba’s baseball federation said in a statement.
The 22-year-old second baseman, who defected after arriving in Miami on Wednesday, is a strong hitter and considered one of Cuba’s most promising young baseball talents. He played for the Elefantes de Cienfuegos team in Cuba.
Prieto joins a long list of athletes who have left Communist-run Cuba, where they are heralded as heroes but their compensation is a fraction of U.S. professional salaries.
Cuba, which has won three gold medals in baseball, is among eight teams competing for a spot in the Tokyo Olympics in the Florida tournament. The national teams of the United States, Cuba, Venezuela, Canada and other countries will play in the qualifying event from Monday to June 5 in West Palm Beach and St. Lucie County.
(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)