Circles Robinson Online

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Location: Havana, Cuba

is a blog to give a fresh angle on a fascinating and beautiful Caribbean Island country that, despite being relatively small and with only 11 million people, has been a major player in American and world politics for a half century. I also suggest you try

Monday, April 30, 2007

Ben Linder a True US Ambassador

By Circles Robinson

An unofficial US Ambassador by the name of Benjamin Linder was buried 20 years ago in the city of Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

A very talented young person, Ben had two professions: one, as a professional clown and the other, as a mechanical engineer. Both were in need in war-torn Nicaragua.

Linder was killed at the age of 27, on April 28, 1987. His assassins were soldiers of the Reagan administration’s “Contra” war, who reined terror on the impoverished Central American country for having overthrown the brutal and corrupt US-backed Somoza dictatorship.

CBS News correspondent Dan Rather said at the time: “This wasn’t just another death in a war that has claimed thousands of Nicaraguans. This was an American who was killed with weapons paid for with American tax dollars. The bitter irony of Benjamin Linder’s death is that he went to Nicaragua to build-up what his own country’s dollars paid to destroy —and ended up a victim of the destruction.”

Despite being tainted by the Iran-Contra scandal involving weapons and drug trafficking, some of the same Cold War hawks from the Reagan years —led by John Negroponte, Elliot Abrams, Otto Reich and John Poindexter— have been back in the driver’s seat during the administration of George W. Bush.

In an article published earlier this month, Ben’s mother Elizabeth said: “Its’ foreign policy that killed Ben and thousands of Nicaraguans, and it’s happening again. I think of Ben’s death ever time I see another death.”

Well attended events commemorating Ben’s life were held over the weekend in Portland, Oregon, where his family lives, and Berkeley, California, as well as in Managua, Matagalpa and San Jose de Bocay, Nicaragua.


Linder was one of those people who cared more about humanity than creature comforts or personal wealth. He paid the ultimate price for supporting a cause he believed in thousands of miles away from home.

During his four years in Nicaragua, Ben, dressed in his clown uniform, used his juggling and unicycle skill to promote health campaigns. He also helped design a mini-hydroelectric plant for El Cua, a mainly coffee farming community without electricity.

The event that most comes to mind in my occasional encounters with Ben was the Xmas before his murder. He had hitched a ride with a group of leaders from a Nicaraguan farmer’s organization including its President Francisco Javier Saenz (1939-96) to El Cua, nestled in a valley where the “Contras” had terrorized the local population.

The trip was on Christmas Eve and Ben was looking forward to his late night chicken dinner, a custom in Nicaragua. Many things were scarce in the blockaded country but the best was always served on December 24th and New Years Eve.

As he got out of the jeep, elated that we finally arrived after a grueling trip, Ben invited our group to come by the following morning and have a look at the hydroelectric plant he helped design.

I can still see the shine in his eyes as he gave us a detailed explanation and cranked up the turbine. I remember upon leaving that Saenz, my boss, commented: “Benjamin has certainly realized himself.”

Four months later when Linder and two Nicaraguan co-workers were killed, the threesome were working on another small scale hydroelectric plant design at a dam site a few kilometers from the isolated town of San Jose Bocay, a couple hours up the dirt road from El Cua.

The Ben Linder Association of Rural Development Workers went on to finish that project and several others. They receive support from the Green Empowerment organization based in Portland, Oregon (

At a time when the US has lost considerable prestige abroad it could sure use a whole lot of Benjamin Linder’s to turn things around.

Laughter and light… not a bad combination!

For readers wishing to learn more about Benjamin Linder I recommend the book “The Death of Ben Linder” by Joan Kruckewitt and the documentary “They can cut all the flowers, but they can not stop the spring.”

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cuba Bids Farewell to Baseball Season, Santiago Wins

By Circles Robinson

The Hornets from Santiago behaved more like Lions on Wednesday as they roared their way to an 8-2 win over Industriales to obtain Cuba’s coveted baseball championship before a home town stadium bursting at the seams.

The 2006-7 Cuban baseball season came to a close with Santiago, managed by Antonio Pacheco, winning the best of seven championship series four games to two. It was the flip side of last year’s finals when Industriales won by the same margin.

The rivalry between Santiago and Industriales goes beyond baseball. Industriales plays out of the nation’s capital and has the best stadium, the Latinoamericano. Havana is the center of the country’s political and economic life and is considered the land of opportunities.

The team from Santiago de Cuba, known for its musicians and rebellious past, is traditionally supported by emigrants from the Eastern part of Cuba to the capital and most of the island outside Havana.

During the final series the rivalry consumed the interest of the nation. Juventud Rebelde newspaper ran a full-page display of painted faces and other creative fan expressions on Wednesday. One cartoon poster shown in the daily had the Industriales lion fumigating a hive of Santiago hornets, a takeoff on the country’s anti-mosquito campaigns.

Since seating is first come first served and prices are only a few cents, many fans were lined up at the stadium as early as 3:00 p.m. when the gates opened for the 8:00 o’clock game. Thousands were turned away and had to settle for watching the game on TV.

Conga drums, trumpets and cow bells played throughout the game, with the musicians turning up the volume each time that their team needed a strikeout, big play or clutch hit. Since both squads had their bands, there was never a calm moment and many fans spontaneously moved their hips. Often, virtually the entire stadium was standing to both dance and cheer on their team.

Betting is not legal in Cuba but there were more than a few people at the stadium and at bars across the country that had money riding on the game.

All playoff games, including the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals were broadcast on Cuba’s no-advertising TV. Between some innings there were calls to attend the upcoming May Day International Worker’s Day March and protests against the United States decision to free terrorist Luis Posada Carriles on bond.

Circus performers and dancers entertained mid-way through the game and a magnificent fireworks display began immediately after the final out.


The game six match-up was a rerun from game two, started by a couple of young right-handers, Deinys Suarez (Industriales) and Albert Carrion (Santiago). However, in that game neither got passed the fourth inning, nor had anything to do with the final score (8-6 in favor of Santiago).

In the rematch, once again Suarez was knocked out at the beginning of the fifth and Carrion lasted only three batters leaving with the bases loaded and nobody out in the first. Yadel Marti came on for Suarez but was unable to prevent Santiago from tying and then taking the lead. Alberto Bicet relieved Carrion and left in the eighth after reaching the pitching maximum of 100 throws, but with the writing already on the wall.

Industriales had erased a 2-0 deficit at home to tie the series at 2-2 before losing Monday. Down 3-2, the series went back to Santiago with the team managed by Rey Anglada on the brink of defeat. The tense and hard fought final game lasted four hours.


The series had been billed as a battle between the Industriales pitching and Santiago hitting. With pitching considered 70 percent of the game by most experts, the series was considered a toss up.

Industriales’ left handed pitchers Arleys Sanchez and Maicel Diaz lived up to the staff’s reputation, shutting out Santiago, the leagues top hitting team, in games three (5-0) and four (3-0). However, right-handed starters Frank Montieth and Deinys Suarez, as well as World Baseball Classic ace Yadel Marti who pitched in three games as a reliever, faltered in the four Industriales losses 19-6, 8-6, 6-4 and 8-2 in games 1, 2, 5 and 6.

The series pitching standouts for Santiago included Alberto Bicet who won twice (games 2 and 6), going a total of 13.1 innings in two long and one short relief job. He allowed a total of only three runs. Bicet was aided Wednesday by his infield which turned three double plays in the final game.

Norge Luis Vera wasn’t as effective, but won his two starts in games one and five while giving up six earned runs in twelve innings. Santiago’s brilliant closer Felix Rivera pitched five innings of scoreless relief in three appearances.

Both teams made more than their average amount of errors, possibly due to the high tension reigning both on the field and in the stands. Industriales had a total of seven mishaps and Santiago eleven. There were several other plays recorded as hits which could have been errors.

Industriales best hitter during the series was clean up man Alexander Mayeta. The first baseman hit three homers and drove in seven runs. Besides making several important catches, centerfielder Carlos Tabares hit two homers, scored five and drove in five. Left fielder Yoandry Urgelles went 7-for-18 with four RBIs.

Santiago took advantage of Industriales Achilles heel in pitching —control—, receiving a total of 37 walks during the six game series. Industriales also received 26 walks.

When they weren’t trotting to first, the big sticks for Santiago were carried by first baseman Jose Julio Ruiz, who scored five times and had two doubles and two homers, including a solo shot to tie the score at 2-2 on Wednesday. Both right fielder Alexander Bell (six RBIs and eight runs scored) and third baseman Ronnier Mustelier had two homers each during the series. Center fielder Reutilio Hurtado had seven RBIs and a record-breaking ten doubles in the combined playoffs against Camaguey, Villa Clara and Industriales.

The season has ended but that doesn’t mean there won’t be more baseball. The Cuban national team will be playing in the upcoming ALBA games in Venezuela, one of several planned tune-ups for the Rio de Janeiro Pan American Games in July.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Posada and Baseball Top News in Cuba

By Circles Robinson

Thursday night’s exciting broadcast of the baseball playoff game between rivals Santiago de Cuba and Industriales was peppered with between inning messages showing outrage over the release from a US prison of the most notorious terrorist of the Western Hemisphere.

Cubans love their baseball, but despise Luis Posada Carriles.

The CIA trained, naturalized Venezuelan, is credited with killing 73 people in a sabotage of a Cuban airliner in 1976; several Havana hotel bombings in the 1990s; playing a lead role in the Iran-Contra affair in the 80s, and plotting numerous assassination attempts over several decades.

"George Bush's government is an accomplice of this terrorist," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro told the press. "It has protected him and today it has guaranteed his freedom in a mockery of international law.”

"They let the executioner out!" was the headline on Cuba’s nightly newscast.

Mixing sports and politics is something that many people dislike, but in Cuba they are sometimes interwoven. Given that an entire Cuban fencing team was among Posada’s plane bombing victims, the mix seemed utterly appropriate.

Meanwhile, the Cuban baseball championship best-of-seven series continues with Santiago de Cuba leading 2-0 after winning at home on Wednesday by a score of 19-6 and 8-6 on Thursday. The series now shifts to Havana’s Latinoamericano Stadium for games three and four on Saturday and Sunday.

The packed stadiums and avid television and radio audience will enjoy the ball games with a frenzied passion not seen in baseball in the USA, but that will not hide the indignation over the terrorist being free in Miami.

Posada’s release from jail —where he was being held only on immigration offenses— had long been considered by many Cubans as probable, with the time and place the only question at hand.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cuba’s Baseball Grand Finale Begins

By Circles Robinson

Everything is set for the rematch best-of-seven championship baseball series between Industriales, last year’s winners, and Santiago de Cuba beginning Wednesday evening in Santiago.

When it comes to baseball in Cuba the lines are pretty much drawn. Industriales is the big favorite in Havana, the capital, and Santiago de Cuba the hope of most other islanders.

One of the big questions is whether Industriales pitching (3.20 ERA), second in the league during the regular season will prevail over Santiago’s league leading hitting (.303 average). Santiago also has respectable pitching, (3.59 ERA) and Industriales hitters can swing the bat (.285 average).

Industriales had a relatively easy time in winning the quarterfinal playoffs 3-1 over Sancti Spiritus and then swept Havana (the team of the province that surrounds the capital) 4-0 in the semifinals.

Santiago won more games than any team in the league during the regular season (57-32 record) but had to fight hard in both the quarterfinals and semifinals beating Camaguey three games to two and Villa Clara 4-3.

In its eight playoff games Industriales had an excellent 1.77 team ERA allowing only 14 earned runs in 71 innings. At the plate the team managed by Rey Anglada hit .285, exactly the same as during the regular season, including 7 home runs and 18 doubles to score a total of 45 runs.

Santiago played 11 games and its team ERA was 3.66, allowing 40 earned runs in 98.1 innings. If it hadn’t been for their hard hitting in the final two games against Villa Clara (16-3 and 18-8) the Eastern Division champs wouldn’t be where they are tonight. Overall, the squad of Santiago, manager Antonio Pacheco, hit .324 with 11 home runs and 28 doubles to score 75 runs.

On defense Santiago has 11 errors so far in the playoffs to Industriales 7, and turned 14 double plays to Industriales 10.

The scheduled pitchers for tonight’s game are two right-handers, veteran Norge Luis Vera, 35, for Santiago and 22 year-old Frank Montieth for Industriales.

To keep up on the action, Granma daily newspaper’s English link will have the day-by-day highlights and results.

Update: Santiago de Cuba continued its hot hitting and walked over Industriales 19-6 on Wednesday night to take a 1-0 series lead. It was their third straight game Santiago has won on the mercy rule. Industriales actually scored first in the opening inning but by the third it was 9-1 and out of reach. Rightfielder Alexei Bell hit two home runs in the endless third and Industriales made three costly errors in the same inning. Game two takes place Thursday night in Santiago with the third match moving to the capital on Saturday.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Cuba Hosts Michael Moore and US Teens

By Circles Robinson

The United States government forbids its citizens from getting on a plane and flying to Havana, Cuba. Nevertheless, Michael Moore and a group of New York City high school students were recently on separate trips to the Caribbean never-never land.

The filmmaker traveled to the island on a low-profile trip to get some footage for his new movie “Sicko,” about health care in the US.

Moore is known for his comical but hard-hitting documentaries aimed at exposing fraud, greed, corruption and pretension. He was able to get a special US Treasury Dept. License to travel to Cuba as a journalist. Such permission is denied most citizens.

The director hopes to premiere “Sicko” at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival in May.

His Oscar winning “Bowling for Columbine” (2002), about the tragedy at a Colorado High School, was back on people’s minds Monday when a man opened fire on students at Virginia Tech University killing at least 32 and wounding dozens more.

“Bowling for Columbine” showed how easy it is to purchase powerful weapons in the United States, a policy steadfastly supported by the current administration.

Moore’s last major film, “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004), gave viewers a critical look at the people running the United States, their close associates, their self-serving response to the 9/11 crisis and the real roots of the war on Iraq.


A dozen New York City Beacon High School students and their history teacher, Nate Turner, decided to use their spring vacation to discover what Cuba was really like. The school has often sponsored trips to foreign countries.

However, unlike Michael Moore, they had to go illegally. Upon returning to the US via the Bahamas, the students now face fines of up to $65,000 for daring to disobey the Bush administration.

Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he is “investigating the matter.” David Cantor, the NYC Dept. of Education spokesperson, was noncommittal on whether the City would take action against the teacher and the students.

AP quoted one Beacon parent, Lee Kalcheim, as saying: “Our policy toward Cuba is nonsense. You antagonize. You just make things worse. We should have normal relations with them.”


The Cuban government welcomes students from around the world either to study or simply to visit. However, during the last three years the Bush administration has cracked down on exchange, preferring a policy of intensified isolation in regards to the island.

Even Cuban-Americans are forbidden by the US government from visiting close family members on the island more than once every three years.

Invited US Jazz musicians are prohibited from playing in the yearly Havana Jazz Plaza Festival and authors banned from attending and presenting their works at the annual Cuban Book Fair. In February this year, a US Cycling Federation team was not allowed to compete in the Tour of Cuba event.

The University of Pittsburgh lost its permission from the US Treasury Dept. a couple years ago to dock in Havana during its semester abroad program. On several occasions the students had been able to converse with top Cuban officials including President Fidel Castro.

Likewise, Cuban scholars, artists, musicians, athletes and economists are routinely denied visas to attend events in the United States.

Cuban scientist, Vicente Verez-Bencomo who discovered a low-cost vaccine against meningitis and pneumonia in small children was denied a visa to receive an award for his achievement at the Tech Museum in San Jose, California.

At the age of 76, the legendary Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer (1927-2005) was denied a chance to receive his last of three Grammy Awards. The singer from the Buena Vista Social Club was dumbfounded to learn that the Bush administration invoked a law that applies to terrorists, drug dealers and dangerous criminals to deny him a visa as a threat to US national security.

Several bills that would end the US travel ban on Cuba are currently before the US Congress. However, President Bush has previously threatened to veto any legislation that deviates from his hard-line approach to Cuba policy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Is the US Following Cuba’s Example?

By Circles Robinson

On Monday, April 9, The Los Angeles Times ran a report entitled “Catching up in medical diplomacy.” The article featured Jason Vogt, a US dentist on a three week mission in Panama.

According to the newspaper, “Jason was part of a 350-strong U.S. military task force called New Horizons that last month spent two weeks bivouacked in the remote jungle of Bocas del Toro, Panama, helping the poor and buffing the image of the United States.”

Meanwhile, a doctor named Jose from Baracoa, Cuba, has been working for more than three years in Venezuela. No newspaper headlines celebrate his dedication, but he is one among tens of thousands of Cuban physicians and teachers working abroad.

Cuba has maintained a program of medical assistance in African and Latin American nations begun over four decades ago. Currently more than 20,000 doctors are on one to four year missions in Venezuela, Honduras, South Africa, Guatemala, Angola, Gambia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Algeria, Ghana, Haiti, and a host of other nations.

The Times article continues: “[Jason is] helping Uncle Sam score points in a high-stakes goodwill campaign playing out across Latin America in poor towns like this one [Norteno, Panama]. The objective: challenging the socialist campaigns of Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and winning over people.”

On the one hand, it’s good to know that Washington has noticed that its free market policies have left many without even the most basic services. Certainly, any attempt by the US to rectify years of neglect in Latin America, should be well received. However, the scope of the occasional US medical assistance to the poor in Latin America can not be compared with the ongoing large-scale Cuban effort in the region.

One fundamental difference between the brief US humanitarian voyages and the comprehensive Cuban effort is that the Cuban physicians live for years in remote communities. There, they not only treat existing ailments but also stress a host of preventive public health measures including appropriate sanitation and water use, and pre-and-post natal care among others.

When cataracts or other eye diseases are detected, operations are provided either in a host country clinic, often built and staffed with Cuban assistance, or via flights to Cuba or Venezuela. Since 2004, several hundred thousand people from Latin America and the Caribbean have recovered their vision.

The US medical personnel will also perform some eye operations and distribute glasses during their brief goodwill missions.


The L.A. Times report notes that “the US will underwrite a four million dollar regional medical training center in Panama City and that Americans will help staff the center.”

Such an effort should be welcomed as a modest attempt to do what Cuba does on a large scale: provide full scholarships to low-income Latin Americans to study medicine on the island, a program that graduated 2,910 doctors in 2005 and 2006.

Currently over 10,000 students from low-income families in 29 countries are studying at the Havana-based Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). In the year 2000, Cuba also extended the scholarship offer to include students from the United States. Currently, around 90 are at the med school.

However, graduating doctors is not enough to guarantee assistance to the millions of Latin Americans without health care, the target group of the long-term Cuban project.

So, besides teaching medicine, the Cuban program seeks to instill a commitment in the students to serve in their poor rural or urban communities upon returning home. It also encourages their local and national governments to provide a public health slot to facilitate their efforts.

The L.A. Times goes on to make the claim that the Cuban program is some how flawed because a small percentage of its doctors take up the Bush administration’s highly publicized brain drain proposition that makes any Cuban medical professional sent abroad eligible for immediate entrance and residence in the US.

However, just like the occasional boxing champ or baseball player that opts for the big bucks, Cuba has shown it is prepared to replace those doctors who swallow Washington’s hook in hope of a higher salary.


William Eaton, the US Ambassador to Panama said President Bush's recent trip to the region was evidence of the new emphasis Washington is placing on improving Latin American relations. Healthcare has become an important part of the U.S. "relations focus," said the L.A Times article.

If we give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt and applaud anything that stresses human well-being, there is another pending health calamity where Washington could lend a big hand.

In 2001, Cuba offered the United Nations 4,000 doctors to work year round in the African countries most affected by HIV/AIDS if the US, Europe and other developed nations would supply the anti-retroviral medicines, equipment and material resources need for prevention programs and treatment.

Year after year, the offer has been repeated, and year after year it has fallen on deaf ears. Be it to shore up an uncaring image or for humanitarian reasons, now would be the perfect time for the US to join Cuba and make a significant difference in so many people’s lives.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It’s Baseball vs. Soaps in Cuba

By Circles Robinson

It’s that time again. Most Cubans live in one TV households and when the baseball playoffs come each year the battle is set: Will it be the nightly chapter of the soap operas or the baseball game?

More Cuban women than men watch the soap operas, but plenty of men join in too, especially in rural communities. With baseball, it’s the other way around.

The soaps, or novelas, are a passion throughout Latin America and generally come to a happy ending after several months or nearly a year of episodes. The ones shown in Cuba usually have a historical and/or social content.

The programs currently being aired nationally on alternating nights are “Cabocla” from Brazil and the Cuban series “Passion and Prejudice.”

The first deals with life in rural Brazil in the 1930s and the battle between two wealthy families of hacienda owners. It replays the classic Romeo and Juliet theme with the son and daughter of the feuding families falling in love.

The Cuban soap recreates society at the beginning of the 20th century, both in the capital Havana and the countryside. It focuses on a period when the newly independent island was called a “republic”, although it was actually under the boot of the United States. The series also centers on a love story.


Meanwhile, the 2006-2007 Cuban Baseball Season is down to the final four teams about to begin the best-of-seven semifinal playoff match-ups.

In the Western Division, Industriales opens at home on Friday in the capital’s Latinoamericano Stadium against Havana, the team that upset Pinar del Rio in the quarter finals. In the East, Santiago de Cuba plays host Saturday to Villa Clara, which eliminated upstart Las Tunas on Tuesday for the final semifinal slot.

Despite their name, Havana hails from the province that surrounds the capital, with its home in the municipality of San Jose de las Lajas. Villa Clara is in the center of the country and Santiago, on the other end of the island, more than 500 miles east of Havana.

When they can, and transportation permitting, many fans escape the TV battle altogether and head out to the stadium. The cost of a ticket to a Cuban baseball game at the packed stadiums is 4 to 12 cents US, the same price as during the regular season.

With seats on a first come first served basis, many fans show up at the stadiums right after work on weekdays, long before the action starts at 8:00 p.m. On the weekends, it’s not unusual to have the best seats taken by mid-afternoon.

Whether live, on TV or on the radio, non-commercial Cuban baseball is quite a different experience for the few US baseball lovers that brave Washington’s travel ban on Cuba to see the games.

There is no advertising, no blackouts on home games, no paid TV, and no stadium organ players. However, there are plenty of Conga drums, cow bells and horns that play throughout the night, building to a crescendo with fans of all ages not only clapping but moving their hips as the tension mounts.

Alcoholic beverages are not sold at the stadiums but there are roasted peanuts and popcorn, sandwiches and other snacks and soft drinks.

Most Cuban cities also have their “baseball peña”, groups of fans who know the players and stats like the palm of their hands. In high-pitched public discussions, they debate and predict outcomes. In the capital, Central Park has an area that serves as a day-in-day-out peña where baseball theories are put forth, sustained or shot down without mercy. During the playoffs the peñas also take up shop at the stadiums.

So who will win out during the postseason, the soaps or the playoffs? In many homes, a compromise is worked out. During the regular season, the soaps get their hour and the end of the baseball game gets switched on afterwards. During the playoffs, the national sport takes precedence in most.


The Western Division quarterfinals ended Monday, April 2. Havana blew an early 7-2 lead but still won the tie-breaker of its best-of five-series 8-7 over favored Pinar del Rio, in a dramatic ten inning game.

Pinar del Rio’s veteran right-hander Pedro Luis Lazo, star pitcher of the Cuban national team, had a rare off night and gave up seven runs, six earned, before getting the hook with nobody out in the second.

Three of the hard fought games between Havana and Pinar went extra innings.

Industriales, the defending league champions, split at home 6-4 and 4-6 against Sancti Spiritus and then won twice on the road 11-0 in game three and 4-3 in the fourth match up to win the series.

Timely hitting and a superb five-inning relief performance from right-hander Yadel Marti led Industriales to their final victory. The team managed only five hits but which included a two-run homer from Alexander Mayeta in the first inning. Alden Mesa and Raiko Oliveres drove in the other runs.

Santiago de Cuba suffered a brief slip up in game two, but last year’s runner-ups out classed Camaguey winning its quarterfinal series 5-2, 1-6, 9-1 and 6-4. In the fourth and final game Camaguey jumped off to a 3-0 lead and was cruising behind league leading pitcher Elier Sanchez who had struck out 10 in five innings.

However, Sanchez gave up two hits in the sixth before leaving the game. Reliever Vladimir Perez allowed both runners to score putting the game at 3-3. Later, with the game tied at four, Santiago got two runs in the top of the tenth to win on a double by Rolando Meriño off reliever Luis Campillo.

After winning its opening game 4-2 against Las Tunas, Villa Clara was pulverized by a 12-run inning in game two and lost 16-0. Still seeing stars by game three, they went down 5-1. In the fourth match-up, reliever Yolexis Ulacia held the Las Tunas bats in check during the final three innings to give Villa Clara a 5-2 win to tie the series.

The final game was a seesaw battle that saw the score tied at one, two and three runs. Villa Clara was led by all-star catcher Ariel Pestano, whose solo homer in the sixth tied the game and his sacrifice fly in the eighth brought in the winning run. Once again, Ulacia made the big pitches in relief going 4.2 innings and striking out the side in the pressure packed ninth inning.


Last year Industriales took the finals four games to two over Santiago de Cuba after defeating Sancti Spiritus 4-3 in the semifinals. Santiago made it to the finals last year by sweeping its four series with Granma.

This season’s team statistics make Industriales and Santiago de Cuba the favorites to once again reach the finals.

Industriales hit .285 (fifth best) and finished second in pitching with a 3.06 ERA. Santiago led the league in batting with a whopping .303 average and was seventh in pitching with a 3.59 team ERA. Havana was fifth in pitching with a team 3.49 ERA and thirteenth in hitting with a .261 average. Villa Clara was tied for last in the league in batting with a .255 team average and fourth in pitching with a 3.20 ERA.

Of the four teams playing in the semifinals Industriales committed 88 errors during the season, Villa Clara 89, Santiago de Cuba 95 and Havana 114. Santiago had the most homeruns with 64 to Villa Clara with 44; Industriales had 38 and Havana 34.

Over the last 15 years five teams have taken the Cuban Baseball League title. Industriales in 1992, 96, 2003, 2004 and 2006; Santiago de Cuba in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2005; Villa Clara 1993, 1994 and 1995; Pinar del Rio 1997, 1998; and Holguin in 2002.

To keep up on the action, Granma daily newspaper’s English link will have the day-by-day highlights and results.

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