Cuban Sports a Regular Target of Talent Theft


8-27-09, 4:09 pm

Original source: CubaNews>

Much as the international practice of buying and selling sports talent hurts the feelings of people who live in poor countries – euphemistically referred to as 'developing countries' – is actually part of a much more serious and deep-seated crime that also includes brain drain, the theft of a nation’s artistic and cultural patrimony, unequal exchange, asymmetric integration, migration for economic reasons and many other forms of imperial plundering.

In the recent World Athletic Championships held in Berlin, we could see for ourselves once again that a high number of medalists native from poor southern countries were competing for rich northern ones.

Media globalization, so common nowadays, fosters the dissemination throughout Third World countries of lifestyles and consumption guidelines that prevail in the rich countries. These in turn lead to a 'universalization of aspirations' that compels people to migrate in search for a chance to enjoy a supposedly ideal way of life.

Since the offer to migrate is formally frowned on by the receiving countries – despite their pro-free trade rhetoric – third-world labor becomes cheaper and therefore a victim of selective migratory policies implemented by these same rich nations.

The sarcastic maxim that “money doesn’t make talent; it just buys it when it’s done” stands out as the sad truth in this drainage of athletes that started to draw attention as of the 1950s for its obvious detrimental effects on the poor countries, frustrated to see sports talents developed at great economic cost seduced by opulent nations.

For all the efforts to present it as a logical outcome fueled by the dream of going places cherished by young athletes from southern countries for whom there’s no light at the end of their society’s tunnel, we can’t disregard other determining factors, for example, the magnet policies designed by the industrialized nations.

No program set in motion by some governments in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean to try and curb the recruitment of sports talents and their exodus has been able to modify the current trend of an increasingly worsening phenomenon.

Cuba has managed to put up a wall to protect itself against Washington’s onslaught in the field of sports thanks to most Cubans’ patriotic devotion to and identification with the socialist revolutionary project. However, the fact that the island has chosen to fight tooth and nail to safeguard the tenets of amateur sports over the principles of a market-oriented professionalism has been used by its powerful enemy to attack the Revolution, a reaction in keeping with capitalism’s basic instincts.

When Cuba banned all forms of commercial exploitation of sports right after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, the purchase of athletes and trainers became a tool of the counterrevolution. No sooner had the island started to pick up medals and reached the highest level of sports development in Latin America than pressure mounted to lure athletes into defection and improve strategies to that end.

Thousands of Cuban athletes, trainers and managers have firmly declined the enemy’s offers to make the leap, often rejecting sums of money way in excess of what they would give to others anywhere else as well as the extraordinary privileges that the U.S.-born Cuban Adjustment Act grants to those who leave the island by illegal means. Yet, only when they succeed in recruiting someone does the media break the news as part of a smear campaign which is no doubt the longest and strongest ever launched against any country in the history of mankind.

In the early 1990s Cuba had to take a number of steps of a mercantilist nature to cope with the economic crisis caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist countries that used to help the Island resist the U.S. blockade through fair trade practices. Cuban society as a whole ended up facing the onrush of those elements of capitalism and their intensified attempts to hire Cuban amateur athletes whose sincere support of the socialist project has been repeatedly put to the test and validated, albeit not without some unfortunate exceptions.

In order to properly assess the merits of Cuba’s sports policies we must take into account that the country’s victories have been achieved in the middle of an unevenly-matched struggle between the will of a small, poor nation to develop its own socialist project and the Empire’s irrational determination to prevent it.

--A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.