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Speedboat!!!1! May 6, 2008

Posted by Brad in news.
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Seattle P-I writer John Marshall wrote an updated story of Yuniesky Betancourt’s arrival in the U.S. The conventional story was that Yuni took a raft to Mexico, then was held in a jail for a few weeks, but got released. From there, he was welcomed with flowers by the Seattle Mariners. Well, the first part of that story isn’t true. Marshall writes:

Betancourt’s route to the U.S. turned out to be much more circuitous. He left Cuba not on a raft to Mexico but rather smuggled aboard a 28-foot Baja speedboat that was supposed to bring him to the Florida Keys. An unscheduled stop to avoid U.S. Coast Guard boats left Betancourt on a beach in the Bahamas for four days. He later made his way to the U.S. on another boat, crossed the U.S. and was thought by prosecutors to have entered Tijuana, Mexico, on a fraudulent Mexican passport and proceeded to Mexico City.

Marshall got all this from the federal trial of Gustavo “Gus” Dominguez, who was sentenced to five years in jail last July for smuggling Cubans into the U.S.

Greg Bishop of the Seattle Times tackled this in a story last year, in which he said that Betancourt scheduled to be a witness in Dominguez’s trial. From what I can gather (namely, from this Miami Herald article), Yuni didn’t make it down to Miami for the trial. The trial was in the first week of April 2007, which is when the Mariners were stuck in Cleveland, thanks to the snow.

There are a couple interesting, non-speedboat parts to this story. First, Yuni probably never paid Dominguez to help smuggle him out of Cuba. From CNN:

“Gustavo continues losing money,” said Ysbel Medina-Santos, the drug dealer who claimed on the witness stand that he was paid by Dominguez to smuggle in Betancourt and the five other players. Medina-Santos, who wore a faded blue prison uniform because he is in custody waiting to be sentenced on the drug charges, said Dominguez paid him $100,000 to smuggle Betancourt out of Cuba. “This ballplayer business was a failure,” added Medina-Santos, who said that Dominguez promised to pay him a percentage of any bonus a player who he smuggled out of Cuba received from a major league baseball team.

And what’s the going rate for smuggling a ballplayer? Well, apparently Henry Blanco, the Cubs’ backup catcher, wired Medina $225,000 for getting him out of Cuba.

Perhaps Yuni didn’t pay Dominguez because as soon as he was in the U.S., he signed with agent Jaime Torres (whose name is often spelled “Jamie,” though I trust The New York Times on Jaime). Torres seems to have a knack for connecting with recent Cuban defectors–he’s Jose Contreras’ and Yoslan Herrera’s agent, and has held auditions for Cuban players in the Dominican Republic.  (Torres was also Sandy Alomar’s agent for a while.)  Yuni’s signing with Torres seems abrupt–Bishop’s article even says “All of a sudden, Torres was his agent.”  I’m not saying Yuni should have to pay to go from one country to another (though I have had to give some consulates $50 visa fees for my travels), but there’s some shady details in Yuni’s trip to the States.



1. Yuni’s in The Onion, McLaren’s out of work « Yuniform - June 19, 2008

[…] Yuni flees countries in speedboats, not makeshift […]

2. Vandalism! « Yuniform - April 12, 2009

[…] the old story of Yuni arriving in Mexico on a raft is still on his biography.  It’s not what happened, […]

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