02/19/08 12:00 PM ET
Baez speaks openly on Castro
Cuban emigree shares thoughts on leader's resignation
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
Baez supplied the caveat that he still has family in Cuba and didn't want to get too deep into the specifics of what Castro's resignation might mean for the Caribbean nation, but he did provide his initial gut reaction.
"I've been out of the country for nine years already," he said. "I don't know how the people think or how they're going to react. I don't know if they're going to celebrate or not, but I guarantee you they won't celebrate in the streets. That's for sure. The government doesn't let you do that -- celebrate in the streets when the leader's going down."
Castro has been ailing since July of 2006, and his brother, Raul, has been serving as acting president ever since. Still, the news of the permanent change in power is potentially huge in the grand scheme of international politics. Castro, 81 years old, has ruled Cuba since 1959, making him the world's longest-ruling non-royal head of state over that period of time.
Raul Castro, 76 years old, appears to be the next in line to assume power. Cuba's National Assembly will meet Sunday to choose new leadership, and people all over the world will watch carefully to see what takes place.
"His brother's already been there for the past year," said Baez. "Nothing happened. It's still the same. People talk about changes and things that are going to happen, but nothing's happened yet. I don't know. Nobody knows. Maybe there will be change, or maybe things will stay the same. We'll see, but it's big news for the Cuban community over here."
Castro rose to power on New Year's Day in 1959 and fashioned Cuba into a communist nation with ties to the Soviet Union. The United States was the first nation to formally recognize Cuba, but relations between the two countries degenerated over the next decade. Hostility reached its peak in 1962 with the Cuban Missle Crisis, and sanctions imposed that still exist to this day.
Cuba, which rests just 90 miles away from American soil, has yielded a thriving expatriate community in South Florida. Baez said that the Cuban people don't even know what to expect next, complicating the prediction process from abroad.
"We don't know what happened and don't know what kind of situation it is over there," he said. "He's too old, and that's a big decision for Fidel Castro. If he made that decision, it's because he can't do too much now. Hopefully, it's the best for everybody and will open doors like other countries do. It had to happen one day. Nobody could be there forever.
"Like everything, like baseball. You start your career and one day you've got to go home. Just like that."
Still, despite the uncertainty, Baez was certain of one thing: Castro's ouster is big news around the world.
"Before, nothing happened," Baez said, succinctly summarizing decades of waiting and hoping for change. "Now, a lot of things can happen. Maybe they'll happen and maybe not, but now there's a chance."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.