In February, Cuban baseball stars and brothers Lourdes and Yulieski Gourriel left the national team in the Dominican Republic in order to pursue careers in Major League Baseball. It was widely reported, from the official Communist Party newspaper Granma to regional and national news outlets. The coverage certainly represents a change from some years ago, when the issue would have been considered taboo, but was unremarkable considering the progression of Cuban society and media since then.
But for New York Times editorial writer Ernesto Londoño the incident represented a dramatic emergence of free expression in Cuba, which, he argues, has been brought about only by the Obama administration’s change in policy toward the island.
The move by the Gourriel brothers was not a surprise inside or outside of Cuba. Rumors that Yulieski’s days were numbered with the national team were reported as early as June 2015 on Cuban blogs and shared on social media by Cubans.