Yasel Porto and Cuban Baseball: The Messenger Must Always Die

Porto already had to defend himself against the accusations of Víctor Mesa, to whom he said he expressed his opinions “as long as possible, there, in the places where the decision makers will see them.”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ernesto Santana, Chicago, 11 December 2019 — The  “reappearance” of Yasel Porto on Cuban television, in what turned out to be just program re-broadcast, is revealed as a crude and typical trick of disinformation, but it is also a sample of the nature of the expulsion of the popular sports reporter and commentator, which is not just the result of a clash between a journalist and a senior sports executive.

Yasel Porto was removed after asking that the Cuban baseball manager Higinio Vélez be replaced, which made him suspect this was the cause for which he was punished. But it has not been essentially because of it, nor because he has expressed only an individual opinion. Maybe not even because he stepped over the red line. Simply, he was already classified as a target to demolish. His elimination had already been planned, and then the right time came along.

Among the notable aspects of this scandalous injustice is, above all, the fact that the suggestion the presidency of the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) should replace Vélez was made by Porto, in passing, and he immediately emphasizied that the determining factor was not to substitute one manager for another, but to make “radical changes” in Cuban baseball “because, if not, whoever comes will be in the same situation.”

It is well known that, although the depth of the changes requested by observers and specialists varies, the vast majority agree that the role of Higinio Vélez has been disastrous with regards to the results obtained in the national sport in recent years. So we have a message addressed to that majority: the only opinion that matters is that of those who control both the FCB and Cuban television.

It is noteworthy that, in the post-production of Bola Viva (Live Ball), Porto’s proposal will be preserved even if it did not coincide with the opinion of the sports newsroom that scripts the program. And the difference between a Rodolfo García, a former presenter, and the sanctioned journalist is abysmal — thanks to a decision that goes far beyond the administrative.

Only a few weeks ago we could see on the internet a brief interview by Porto of Camilo Rodríguez, the catcher ejected from a game in Havana’s Latin American Stadium, which seems an international record. The expulsion of the uncomfortable is a norm at all levels of the country, although here it is an extremely annoying case for the upper hierarchy.

For several years, Porto has been dedicated to advocating for a unified team with the best of Cuban baseball from outside and inside the country, for demanding honesty and transparency from sports officials and for broadcasting Major League games on television.

He has also promoted the meeting of Industriales players on both shores, has conducted interviews with our stars in the Grand Tent — only published on social networks — and, on top of everything, has related to important major league figures and has produced important audiovisuals with economic independence from the country’s authorities.

Everything, of course, in favor of the glory of national sport, as evidenced by the usual and always awarded Baseball program, where he has dedicated himself to rescuing forgotten facts and figures from our ball with the support of such outstanding and endearing connoisseurs as Ismael Sené.

Just over a year ago, before the accusations from Victor Mesa in Miami, Porto published a reply on his Facebook profile where he detailed the principles of his work and declared that he was “living for baseball and not from baseball.” In addition, he said he expressed his views “as long as possible, there, in the places where the decision makers will see them.”

“For some I am a communist, for others a gusano [’worm’], but luckily, for most, a Cuban who tries to contribute to his country’s baseball,” he continued, claiming to defend his truth over personal relationships and ideological differences. In fact, he described his friends as “very diverse because of their political positions.”

As we see, there are no lack of reasons for him to become a target of the powerful. And not only because he is the opposite of a Vélez who lives at the expense of the players and watches out more for the interests of the Government than for those of baseball, or the opposite of a sports journalist like Rodolfo García himself, so reverent with the political hierarchy.

Yasel Porto became, for that hierarchy, a terrible example for all of official journalism. His colleagues have perfectly understood the lesson. Only one of his colleagues in the sports newsroom of television, Renier González, has supported him through his social networks. “Cuba needs people like Yasel Porto, who are not interested in positions or welfare, people who do things for the good of society,” he wrote. The rest are silent.

Although none of the sessions of the popular consultation on baseball throughout the country has been disclosed, it has been leaked that there is a broad rejection of the permanence of Higinio Vélez at the head of the FCB. But not even if this repudiation was paid attention to would it mean that popular opinion had been taken seriously.

Porto would hardly be vindicated if Vélez were replaced, because one of the journalist’s sins has been precisely to become a spokesperson for a majority. That, in the logic of social control in Cuba, requires severe punishment so that others learn and journalism does not become what it should be, a vigilant and critical entity with power.

Some believe that the messenger has been killed by mistake, despair or injustice, and they do not understand the real point. No message is wanted and this is the premise: the messenger must always die.


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