Yankee pitcher Jose Contreras has been reunited with his family. After being away from his wife and daughters for nearly two years they are now a part of his â€œAmerican Dream.â€?
Contreras defected on October 1st 2002, while playing for the Cuban National Team. Cuba had been competing in the Americas Cup, in Mexico. Contreras quickly established residency and filed for free agency in Nicaragua. He then signed a $32 million dollar contract for four years, with the Yankees. At first he sparkled but recently Contreras was unhappy. He seemed lost at times on the mound, often pitching mechanically with no passion. There were rumors about him lamenting an empty house.
But now that has all changed. On June 21st Contrerasâ€™s wife and daughters in a smugglerâ€™s boat arrived upon the shores of Florida. After some immigration problems Contrerasâ€™s wife Miriam, daughters 11yr-old Naylan and 3yr-old Naylenis were quickly reunited with their father.
True to form on his first pitching outing after being reunited he was dominant. Pitching against the Mets he struck out 10 in six superb innings leading the Yankees to a 5-1 win. In doing so he retreated to the form that made him one of the most coveted Cuban players when he turned the heads of American baseball scouts in 1999.
Once while pitching for the Cuban National Team against the Baltimore Orioles, Contreras pitched eight shutout innings. He struck out 10, including Albert Belle twice. Cuba won the game. Then he beat the U.S in the Pan American Games. In eight innings he struck out thirteen. Cuba would eventually win the gold game 5-1. All this from the three- time Cuban Male Athlete of the Year who in his Cuban career won 117 out of 167 games, with and ERA of 2.82. In his final season he had a league leading 1.76 ERA. With that kind of resume it is no wonder that he was so raved about by the experts.
But the Contreras story is not just about baseball and the economics of baseball. It is also about politics and U.S foreign policy towards Cuba, a foreign policy that with an iron fist has strangled the economic possibilities of Cuba. For four decades the U.S has maintained an embargo against Cuba. The U.S government has argued that this is to turn Cuba back to democracy from its communist ways.
Ironically, while Washington has pontificated in self- righteous tones about communism in Cuba it has no trouble supporting China. Is it because China practices a kinder gentler communism? Or is it because China has allowed U.S corporations to setup sweat-shops and exploit the labor force of Chinaâ€™s two billion people? Truth be told China is arguably the most profitable trading partner America now has. And this partnership is mutual. Itâ€™s the old â€œyou scratch my back I will scratch yoursâ€? situation.
So for all the talk of fighting communism Washington wonâ€™t put their morals, or is it their money where their mouths are. Then again I guess their money does represent their morals. If they cared so much about freedom and democracy why were they so silent when hundred were massacred in Tiananmen Square? And why did they do so little when thousands more were detained and an unknown amount assassinated?
Now with this latest Cuban defection we are again bombarded with stories about the evils of Castroâ€™s regime. We are told that the opportunities that Contreras and former defecting brothers Livan and Orlando â€œEl Duqueâ€? Hernandez were deprived of was due to the Castro dictatorship. However, no one questions the hypocritical U.S. policy toward Cuba. Chinese athletes like Houston Rocketsâ€™ star center Yao Ming can go and come to China as they please. Some will argue that Castro is to blame but the U.S enforces strict travel restrictions for anyone trying to travel to Cuba. It is time to end this monstrous policy.
It is time for this policy that is causing anguish not just for someone like Contreras but the millions of other everyday Cubans to change. That way we will see more happy endings for other families beside the Contreras family. After all isnâ€™t this the land of liberty