Two Cuban-born players sent shout-outs to anti-regime protesters Tuesday at the start of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Denver.
As they were introduced, New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and Texas Rangers outfielder Adolis Garcia drew attention to popular pro-liberty messages written in white on their ball caps, as shown on the Fox Sports broadcast.
The slogans were “SOS Cuba” and “Patria y Vida,” which means “fatherland and life,” a phrase popularized in a song by dissident Cuban hip-hop artists in defiance of the Cuban motto “Patria o Muerte,” or “fatherland or death.”
Prior to the game, Chapman told Our Esquina’s Jose de Jesus Ortiz that “we have to try to look for the liberty that every Cuban has dreamed about for many years.”
“It’s important,” said Chapman. “How can I tell you? It’s an event for me because the whole world sees it. It’s an event that the entire U.S. watches. Many countries see it. I’m sending a clear message to the whole world so they know what’s happening in my country.”
Garcia, who defected in 2016, said his family and relatives still live in Cuba, where thousands of demonstrators have reportedly taken to the streets chanting “Freedom” and “Down with the dictatorship,” touching off a crackdown by security forces, according to human-rights groups.
“We know the situation going on right now,” Garcia told Our Esquina. “The people are in the streets protesting and fighting for their rights. Be strong. We are all here with you.”
Chapman, who defected in 2009, said the protests were “the first time that I know of in my 33 years.”
“It’s good that this has happened for the people to rise up. The courage to go out to the streets, that has never happened. That is good,” he said. “Let’s hope it works so we can have a chance and get those people out of there. We’ll see.”
Among those using the #SOSCuba and #PatriayVida hashtags on social media is Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican and a staunch critic of the 62-year-old communist dictatorship in Havana.
He took issue with those blaming the uprising on Cuba’s handling of the novel coronavirus, citing a Sunday tweet by a senior State Department official who said that the Cuban people seek “to express concern about rising COVID case/deaths & medicine shortage.”
“This is not just a response to the COVID outbreak, but an unambiguous rejection of six decades of suffering under totalitarian socialism and communism,” said Mr. Rubio in a Tuesday statement.
President Biden told reporters Monday that the “Cuban people are demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime.”
“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime,” he said in a statement.