Cuba rips Miami for 'vile' treatment of its players at World Baseball Classic

FILE PHOTO: General view of the loanDepot park, home of the Miami Marlins MLB team, in Miami

By Dave Sherwood

HAVANA (Reuters) -Cuba on Wednesday slammed Miami authorities and baseball officials for allowing what it called "vile and organized" attacks against its players at the semi-final of the World Baseball Classic last week.

Sunday's game matched the U.S. team against Cuba at LoanDepot Park in Miami, a city that is home to the largest population of Cuban Americans in the United States, as well as many of the most vocal opponents to Cuba´s communist-run government.

Cuba´s foreign ministry, in a statement on Wednesday, hailed the performance and professionalism of the U.S. team, which beat the Cubans in a 14-2 blowout, but said hazing of its players had put Cuba at an unfair disadvantage.

"With the clear purpose of destabilizing our players, repeated acts of various kinds were carried out against them, against the delegation that accompanied them, and against fans in the stadium," the statement said.

During the game, fans behind home plate repeatedly raised banners, including one that read "Down with the Dictatorship," in reference to the administration of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel. Three times protesters ran out onto the field, disrupting play before being tackled by stadium security.

Cuba said players and their families were also attacked by people throwing objects at them and shouting vulgarities.

"The rules of order and conduct established by the stadium were not enforced," the statement read. It also alleged "the apparent complicity of certain representatives and personnel of that sports facility and local authorities, particularly those in charge of order and security."

The Miami-Dade Police Department, which assists with security inside the stadium, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. LoanDepot Park could not be reached for comment.

Cuban Americans, local politicians and dissident groups around Miami have called on the United States to take stronger action against Cuba after police on the island arrested hundreds of protesters following anti-government riots in July of 2021.

Cuba has defended those arrests, saying protesters violated Cuban law.

Cuba's foreign ministry said in its statement it had "alerted the government of the United States in sufficient time, through diplomatic channels, about the public and open threats" ahead of the game.

A U.S. State Department official told Reuters the United States respects "the right of all people to peacefully protest and supports their freedom of expression."

The official said "the vast majority of protests by spectators during Sunday´s game were peaceful" but that the U.S. government condemned any alleged acts of violence committed against players or spectators.

"In instances where protesters may have broken the law by running onto the field, stadium security and local law enforcement officials responded promptly," the official added.

(Reporting by Dave SherwoodEditing by Bill Berkrot)