Friday, March 10, 2006

But they have free health care ...

I don't suffer Castro apologists gladly. Neither do the Puerto Rican police, who win this week's free speech prize.

Castro was miffed when, during a World Baseball Classic game against the Netherlands (in Puerto Rico), a fan held up a sign reading "Down with Fidel."

The image of the man holding the sign behind home plate was beamed live Thursday night to millions of TV viewers, including those in Cuba. The top Cuban official at the game at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan rushed to confront the man.

Puerto Rican police quickly intervened and took the Cuban official --- Angel Iglesias, vice president of Cuba's National Institute of Sports --- to a nearby police station where they lectured him about free speech.

"We explained to him that here the constitutional right to free expression exists and that it is not a crime," police Col. Adalberto Mercado was quoted as saying in El Nuevo Dia, a San Juan daily.

The brouhaha gathered steam Friday when Cuba's Communist Party newspaper, Granma, called the sign-waving "a cowardly incident." Cuba's Revolutionary Sports Movement exhorted Cubans to demonstrate in Havana late Friday, saying U.S. and Puerto Rican authorities were involved in "the cynical counterrevolutionary provocations."

Their panic speaks volumes about the fragility of Castro's regime. Or does a single sign held up at a baseball game really qualify as "counterrevolutionary?"

Let's hope so.

***Major League Baseball's response was as cowardly as you'd expect: "The Cubans were upset with the incident that happened last night, and they want to make sure it doesn't happen again," said John Blundell, spokesman of Major League Baseball, which helped establish the tournament. "We are doing everything that we can to ensure the safety of fans and the delegations."

It seems the only fan whose safety was at risk was the guy with the sign. Way to stick up for free expression, MLB!

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