Did officials at Florida International University cave in to a Miami Cuban exile organization that objected to a baseball game scheduled for the West Miami-Dade campus? The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida says yes. So does the leader of that small but vocal Cuban exile group.
On Sunday night veterans of Cuba's best-known baseball team landed at Miami International Airport. The Industriales team members had great careers with the baseball team, who many consider Cuba's version of the New York Yankees.
The former players, who are now in Miami, were set to play a game with another group of veteran members of the Industriales, a team that has produced a number of U.S. major leaguers. Those who played in the U.S. had defected, abandoning Castro's Cuba.
The game was set to be played at FIU. Game promoter Alejandro Canton had a contract and tickets were being sold, but FIU pulled out citing what it described as a "contractual matter." Contacted Monday, an FIU spokesperson said the school would be not commenting further because the ACLU had filed a public records request so it could review the contract.
"FIU should be embarrassed by their misguided decision to enter into a contract and then, in the apparent face of political pressure and threat of demonstration, cancel the contract at the last minute,” said ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon.
The Cuban exile group Vigilia Mambisa, which is small in number but dogged in its anti-Castro crusade, had asked FIU to cancel the game. The ACLU, in its request for documents, notes that the leader of the Vigilia Mambisa had indeed met with FIU officials.
In their request for documents the ACLU wrote: "We also note that on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, Miguel Saavedra of the anti-Castro organization, Vigilia Mambisa, commented to the press: ‘I have been very happy we have won a battle against the Castristas. How is it that after they had spent 50 years playing baseball for the Cuban government they are now going to come here to the grounds of FIU to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that situation when 100 feet away there is the monument of the Cuban memorial?’ Mr. Saavedra also stated: ‘There was a meeting and we were able to arrive at a certain type of idea about what they could do.’ These statements suggest that Mr. Saavedra’s anti-Castro organization attempted to and did persuade FIU to terminate the lease."
Meanwhile Canton set his sights on possibly playing at the Homestead baseball complex. He paid a visit, saying the shuttered and decaying stadium could be fixed up in a couple of days.
"They do have to turn on water and power, " Canton said.
"No way," says the mayor of Homestead, Steve Bateman. The City is in litigation with the current leaseholder and "till that court proceeding is completed, no one is playing there,” Bateman said.
Though he has now lost out on the use of two Miami-area baseball fields, Canton says he will get a game going even if it is in a Walmart parking lot. He foresees no problems with two games scheduled for Tampa on Aug. 23 and 24.