The baseball stars who ignore MLB to stay loyal to Cuba ... and Canada

Cuban players can make millions if they defect to the United States but others prefer to plot a career path that will keep them close to their families.

Most of the year, Noelvis Entenza pitches in Havana’s historic Estadio Latinoamericano, a ballpark that shakes from the 55,000-capacity crowds and where the buzz of fans’ horns drowns out the players on the field.

But when Entenza’s season ends, he gets on a plane and flies north – to Kitchener, Ontario, where he pitches in front of crowds of a few hundred in a semi-professional baseball league a world away from his life as a star in Cuba’s National Series.

“In Cuba, it’s so crazy. Here, they sit quiet, like in church,” he says, through a translator.

Entenza, a 33-year-old right-hander for the Havana Industriales, is one of four Cubans playing in Canada this summer under a unique agreement with the Cuban baseball federation. While dozens of their former teammates have defected from Cuba in pursuit of millions in Major League Baseball, they’ve chosen to stay loyal to their country.

Entenza, Miguel Lahera, Jonder Martinez and Yorbis Borroto, all veterans from Cuba’s national team, play for the Kitchener Panthers of the Intercounty Baseball League. But while they’re good enough to pursue much bigger paychecks in the US, they say there’s more at stake than just money.

“It’s a decision each person has to make. Every one is different,” said Entenza, who has watched teammates from Jose Abreu to Yasiel Puig to Lourdes Gurriel Jr flee for riches in the MLB.

These players, meanwhile, say they’re happy to be allowed to play abroad, without breaking any laws. After their season in Canada ends, they’ll return home to their families, and their respective Cuban teams.

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“Playing in the MLB is the dream, but we want to play legally,” said Borroto. “We play for our family and our country. To play for a million dollars and be away from Cuba, that’s a big change … We feel good to play in Cuba.”

Two years ago, there were great hopes things were improving. MLB and Cuba were discussing ways for Cuban players to sign with big league teams without having to defect. President Obama went to Havana to watch a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team. Lahera, Martinez and Borroto all played in that game, and say they felt they were close to something historic.

“It was very emotional,” said Lahera, who has also pitched for Cuba in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic. “I was proud to know we could play with major league players.”

“We came here because it’s a new experience. We wanted to show other countries that Cuban baseball is a good quality,” said Borroto, who plays for the Ciego de Avila Tigres in Cuba. “We wanted to get experience from another country and learn a different style to play.”

By coming to Canada, the four Cubans hope they’re starting something bigger, something that could eventually lead to other Cubans playing legally in the MLB.

Canada Demands End of U.S. Blockade on Cuba (+Photos)

Havana, Jul 23 (Prensa Latina) Friends of Cuba in Canada gathered in front of the U.S. consulate in Vancouver to demand the end of the economic and financial blockade, which has caused countless damages to the people of the Caribbean country.

Activist Tamara Hansen told Prensa Latina via Facebook that the mobilization took place as it has every month since the initiative was launched on September 17, 2015.

Under the slogan 'Lifting the US blockade Against Cuba Now' and organized by the Friends of Cuba against the U.S. Blockade-Vancouver (FCAB-Van) group, the peaceful demonstration called on the White House to listen to the international outcry.

On November 1, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against the blockade for the twenty-sixth consecutive time, supported by an overwhelming majority (191 votes in favor and only two against, the United States and Israel).

During the solidarity demonstration, participants carried banners reading: 'Cuba Yes, Blockade No!' and 'Return Guantanamo to Cuba Now!', referring to the territory illegally occupied by a US naval base in that eastern province of the Caribbean island.

The blockade, imposed in 1962 and maintained by both Democratic and Republican governments, is the longest economic siege in human history, experts say.

A statement by the group almost three years ago, when the monthly sit-ins in Vancouver began, stressed that 'despite the normalization of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States (...), many of the criminal policies (...) have been in place for more than 50 years'.

FCAB-Van is the successor to the Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver. It was founded shortly after the celebration of the victory over the return of the island's anti-terrorists unjustly imprisoned in the United States on September 12, 1998.

FCAB-Van publicly warned that'as long as the cruel blockade exists, the group will return each month in front of the U.S. consulate in Vancouver', as they did for the return of the Five to their homeland (Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez).

  • Published in Cuba

Gunman kills two, injures 12 on bustling Toronto avenue, police say

TORONTO (Reuters) - A gunman opened fire on a Toronto street filled with people in restaurants late on Sunday, killing two people and injuring 12 others, including a young girl, authorities said. The suspected shooter was later found dead.

The girl was in a critical condition, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said.

“We are looking at all possible motives ... and not closing any doors,” Saunders told reporters at the site of the shooting.

Paramedics, firefighters and police converged on the scene in Toronto’s east end.

https://s1.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?m=02&d=20180723&t=2&i=1286232333&r=LYNXMPEE6M112&w=940People leave an area taped off by the police near the scene of a mass shooting in Toronto, Canada, July 22, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Police said the gunman used a handgun. Earlier reports said nine people had been shot.

The gunfire on Danforth Avenue in the city’s Greektown neighborhood began at 10 p.m. local time (0200 GMT Monday), the Special Investigations Unit said, adding that the gunman walked down the busy avenue firing at groups of people.

Danforth is filled with restaurants and a family-friendly night life.

The gunman, a 29-year-old man, exchanged fire with police, fled and was later found dead, according to the Special Investigations Unit, which investigates deaths and injuries involving police.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter on Monday, “The people of Toronto are strong, resilient and brave - and we’ll be there to support you through this difficult time.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters the city has a gun problem, with weapons too readily available to too many people. Tory is expected to brief city councilors on Monday morning.

Toronto is grappling with a sharp rise in gun violence this year. Deaths from gun violence has jumped 53 percent to 26 so far in 2018 from the same period last year, police data last week showed, with the number of shootings rising 13 percent.

Toronto has deployed about 200 police officers since July 20 in response to the recent spate in shootings, which city officials have blamed on gang violence.

In April, a driver deliberately plowed his white Ryder rental van into a lunch-hour crowd in Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 15 along a roughly mile-long (1.6-km) stretch of sidewalk thronged with pedestrians.

  • Published in World

Trudeau Criticizes Trump's Policy of Separating Migrant Families

Ottawa, Jun 20 (Prensa Latina) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today called ''wrong'' the migration policy of U.S. President Donald Trump, which caused the separation of more than 2,000 children from their undocumented parents.

In brief statements in this capital, the President lamented what happens in the neighboring country with these children, by saying he cannot imagine what the families living through this situation are enduring and that this is not the way they do things in Canada.

According to CBC News channel, Trudeau's affirmation constitutes a change in the tone of the Liberal Party that up to now has avoided criticizing directly the measures adopted by Trump against the children of immigrants who irregularly cross the border with Mexico.

In this regard, the Canadian Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, said this week that all Canadians are upset with the images coming from the United States, but did not go into detail and described immigration agreements between Washington and Ottawa as very good.

Measures against families arriving in the country began this year after the U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, announced a new policy of zero tolerance and prosecution against those who cross borders without permission.

  • Published in World

Cuba calls on US and Canada to investigate 'sonic attack' claims

The most senior scientist in Cuba has called on his opposite numbers in the US and Canada to assess the evidence behind claims that mysterious attacks in Havana left American and Canadian diplomats with inexplicable concussion-like brain injuries.

Luis Velázquez, a neurologist who was recently appointed president of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, has asked the US and Canadian national science academies for a joint scientific inquiry to examine the evidence behind the alleged attacks.

The move reflects a growing sense of frustration in Cuba that the country is being blamed for harming foreign embassy staff even as governments and independent experts remain baffled as to what form of attack could have made the diplomats ill.

Some scientists have questioned whether attacks even took place and say the wide range of symptoms reported by the embassy staff could be explained by a number of common medical conditions, or be driven by psychological factors in the high-stress environment the staff work in.

The inquiry Velázquez has called for would see some of the most eminent scientists in the world pore over the evidence to date with the aim of better understanding what, if anything, happened to the affected individuals. The US National Academy of Sciences confirmed the approach but declined to comment further.

The US slashed the number of staff at its Havana embassy and expelled 15 Cuban diplomats last year after 24 American staff and family reported feeling unwell with headaches, dizziness and problems with their eyesight, hearing, sleep and concentration. Many said their ailments came on after they heard strange noises that ranged from grinding and cicada-like chirps to the buffeting caused by an open car window. While unnamed US officials claimed in media reports that the diplomats were victims of “acoustic attacks”, an FBI investigation found no evidence that sonic weapons had been used.

Last month, Canada said it would call home the families of diplomats at its embassy in Havana, where 10 staff have reported similar symptoms. A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said an investigation into the cause was ongoing. “There have been no new incidents since the early fall of 2017,” they said. “Diplomatic families who have returned to Canada, however, have continued to experience symptoms.” Last week, the US issued a health warning to its citizens in China after one of its consulate staff experienced the same types of symptoms to those in Cuba.

A formal assessment of the American diplomats’ health commissioned by the US government was published in March by doctors at the University of Pennsylvania. The preliminary report in the Journal of the American Medical Association describes a new syndrome that resembles persistent concussion in people who have not received blows to the head.

But in a letter published in the Journal of Neurology, Sergio Della Sala and Robert McIntosh, both neuroscientists at the University of Edinburgh, claim the US report is seriously flawed.

Della Sala said much of the evidence the doctors used to propose a new concussion-like syndrome came from six diplomats who each took 37 cognitive tests. The tests looked at visual and auditory attention, working memory, language, reasoning, movement and other cognitive abilities.

In their report, the US doctors reveal that all six embassy staff who had the full battery of tests had some brain impairment or another. But Della Sala and McIntosh say anybody who took the tests would have been classed as impaired.

They point out that it is standard practice with cognitive tests to measure people’s performance against others in the population. Often, a person has to score in the bottom 5% to be considered impaired. But the US doctors set the threshold at 40%, meaning that by definition, four in 10 who take the test will be “impaired”.

Della Sala and McIntosh ran a simulation that looked at the probability of passing all 37 tests when the threshold for failure was set so high. “The chances that somebody will be without an impairment is zero,” Della Sala said. “We ran the simulation 1,000 times, and never, ever is there one single individual who appears to be normal. They are all classed as impaired.”

He added: “I’m not denying that they may have discovered a new syndrome, but the point is that the evidence they have provided is nonscientific. The paper is faulty. Even if the results are preliminary, a threshold that verges on half the population is unheard of. I cannot see how any reviewer could have looked at the data and said they are fine. This is not a little thing. It is a threshold unknown in science or clinical practice.”

In their Journal of Neurology paper, the scientists conclude: “With the criteria used, the neuropsychological symptoms of the proposed new syndrome have a worrying lack of specificity: everybody is affected.”

Mark Cohen, a professor of neurology and pioneer in functional brain imaging at University of California, Los Angeles, said there was insufficient evidence to link the diplomats’ health problems to the sounds they heard. “These are symptoms which are typical of many, many causes,” he said. “It is an incautious leap to presume that the cause was related to the reports of sounds heard by these diplomats.”

Neither the US State Department nor representatives from the University of Pennsylvania responded to requests for comment.

  • Published in Cuba

North American Activist Calls for Ending Blockade Against Cuba

The coordinator of the National Network of Solidarity with Cuba in the United States, Cheryl Labash, demanded today that her country''s government lifts the blockade it maintains on the island for more than 50 years.

We are here to support the people of the Caribbean nation and corroborate our rejection to the economic, commercial and financial siege against Cuba, Labash told Prensa Latina.

She arrived in Havana as part of the 13th International May Day Solidarity Brigade.

According to the activist, the United States is one of the most represented countries within that solidarity bloc with more than 70 brigade members.

Labash also highlighted the need that the U.S. government returns to Cuba the territory illegally occupied by the naval base in Guantanamo, east of Cuba.

The detention center, opened in 2002 and had about 800 inmates -now 41-, is designated by international organizations as a place where torture and systematic violations of human rights against prisoners were committed.

Speaking about the worsening of Washington's policy toward Havana, Labash expressed her rejection to the interventionist positions by U.S. President, Donald Trump.

The activist will participate with almost 300 brigade members from Latin America, Europe, Asia and Canada in the central activities for the International Workers' Day, an event that includes a massive parade at the Revolution Square in Havana and in the provincial capitals.

Received yesterday at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp, in Artemisa, the 13th International May Day Solidarity Brigade will complete an intense two-week agenda in Cuba.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuba Is a Safe Country, Foreign Ministry Ratifies to Canada

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) confirmed to Canada today that Cuba is a safe country, following the decision by that northern nation to withdraw part of its diplomatic staff in this capital.

The Government of Canada adopted that decision after alleging symptoms of ill health by some diplomats last year.

In an official declaration, the MINREX reiterated that the rigorous investigation, carried out by a group of highly qualified experts, did not find any evidence to explain the alleged disorders or any indication of an attack or an incident on Cuban territory.

The study did not reveal any relationship between the described symptoms and sonic or other attacks, the text says.

In that regard, the text explains that the Cuban government respects Canada's decision, but it considers that it is unjustified.

The MINREX ratified that the protection of diplomatic personnel from all countries is guaranteed in Cuba, a stable and healthy nation for its inhabitants and almost five million foreigners who visit the country every year.

  • Published in Cuba

Canadians Nusbaum and Plantinga reach semifinals defeating Cuba

Canadians Aaron Nusbaum and Mike Plantinga upset top seeded Karell Peña and Dasiel Quesada of Cuba with a 2-0 (21-15, 21-15) victory to reach the men’s semifinals of the first stage of the 2018 NORCECA Beach Volleyball Circuit in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Mike Plantinga’s high blocks and Aaron Nusbaum’s effective defense took the Cuban pair by surprise, limiting their performance to a lower standard than usual.

Another surprise was Josué Gaxiola/José Angel Cardenas of Mexico advancing into semifinals with a steady performance while beating Canada-B of Fiodar Kazhamiaka/ Sergey Grabovsky 2-0 (21-15, 21-18) in quarterfinals. Gaxiola has earned one silver and two bronze NORCECA medals and Cardenas is a NORCECA newcomer; together they finished fifth last year at the FIVB U-21 World Championship.

United States-A of William Reid Priddy and Troy Field had to use all their energy to beat resilient Rubén Mora/Dany López of Nicaragua coming from behind 2-1 (25-27, 21-15, 15-11). Mora and López had a spectacular performance while Priddy and Field seemed to enjoy the challenge.

Eric Zaun and Edwin Ratledge of United States-B won their quarterfinal match with no problems  to young Dominicans Jamel Alessandre/Victor Castillo by 2-0 (21-15, 21-15).

Plantinga/Nusbaum (CAN) will meet Gaxiola/Cardenas (MEX) in semfinals. The other semifinal features Priddy/Field against fellow countrymen Zaun/Ratledge.

Men’s semifinal matches are scheduled for 10:30 am (local time) and the gold medal match at 5:30 pm.

Men Results Saturday:

Pool-Play: Pool A: Karell Peña/ Dasiel Quesada (CUB) d Jamel Alessandre/Victor Castillo (DOM) 2-0 (21-13, 21-11); Pool B: Eric Zaun/Edwin Ratledge (USA-B) d Aaron Nusbaum/ Mike Plantinga (CAN-A) 2-1 (21-91, 15-21, 18-16); Pool C: Fiodar Kazhamiaka/ Sergey Grabovsky (CAN-B) d Luis García/Erick Garrido (GUA) 2-0 (21-19, 21-18); William Reid Priddy/Troy Field (USA-A) d Germán Osuna/Leonel Garza (MEX-B) 2-0 (21-15, 21-11); Pool D: Josue Gaxiola/José Angel Cardenas (MEX-A) d Rubén Mora/Dany López (NCA) 2-0 (21-15, 21-14); Yasutaka Sanay/Franky Hernández (MEX-C) d Jesse Parham/Casey Santamaria (CAY) 2-0 (21-9, 21-13); Loser’s Play-Off: Germán Osuna/Leonel Garza (MEX-B) d Yasutaka Sanay/Franky Hernández (MEX-C) 2-0 (18-21, 21-19, 16-14);  Luis García/Erick Garrido (GUA) d Jesse Parham/Casey Santamaria (CAY)  2-0 (21-7, 21-10); QF1: Aaron Nusbaum/ Mike Plantinga (CAN-A) d Karell Peña/ Dasiel Quesada (CUB) 2-0 (21-15, 21-15); QF2: Josue Gaxiola/José Angel Cardenas (MEX-A) d Fiodar Kazhamiaka/ Sergey Grabovsky (CAN-B) 2-0 (21-15, 21-18); QF3: William Reid Priddy/Troy Field (USA-A) d Rubén Mora/Dany López (NCA) 2-1 (25-27, 21-15, 15-11); QF4: Eric Zaun/Edwin Ratledge (USA-B) d  Jamel Alessandre/Victor Castillo (DOM) 2-0 (21-15, 21-15).

  • Published in Sports
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