Cuban athletes get pay raise, green light to work abroad
By Nelson Acosta
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban athletes will be allowed to work abroad and have been granted significant pay increases for their performance, official media said on Friday, in hopes of stemming a decline in the country's results in international competitions.
The government's decision came as athletes, in particular baseball players, are defecting in record numbers, with 21 currently contracted by the U.S. major leagues, some earning multimillion dollar salaries.
Just this week, a promising young Cuban pitcher for the national squad, Raicel Iglesias, 23, failed to show up for training and was widely believed to have left the island, which would make him the latest prospect to seek a lucrative contract in the United States.
Cuba's famed boxing team suffered a similar series of defections in recent years, lowering its performance at the Olympics, world championships and other international events.
The exodus of athletes is mainly due to wages equivalent to $20 per month, in sharp contrast to their potential earnings abroad. The new measures would increase those salaries to between $40 and $200 for top athletes.
The measure is the latest reform of the Soviet-style system under President Raul Castro, who replaced ailing brother Fidel in 2008 with a call to update the country's economic and social system to the 21st century.
Cuba's Council of Ministers approved the measures "to perfect the compensation system of athletes, trainers and specialists," Granma, the Communist Party daily, said.
"Other measures will progressively go into effect to update practices so they are more in sync, from our perspective, with the world and thus contribute to achieving better results in sports," it added. Continued...