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Cuba athletes' travel to remain restricted

Professionals "deemed essential" are told they cannot leave the country.
Cuba olympics 2012 londonEnlarge
Cuba during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Cuban sports stars will still require permission to leave their communist state.

On Oct. 16 the government announced that most Cubans — at least those who can afford it — will no longer need exit visas to travel abroad as of Jan. 14.

It then said there would be exceptions.

"Professionals who are deemed essential, technicians, sports people, and (Communist Party) staff and leaders" were told of foreign travel regulations, said Lamberto Fraga, a high-ranking Migration and Foreign Nationals' Ministry official.

"This group of people will be told why they cannot leave the country, and they likely understand that they are essential, which should keep them from going to seek a passport, unless they have authorization," Fraga added.

GlobalPost Senior Correspondent in Havan Nick Miroff said the country's boxers, baseball players and Olympic athletes are among those who will not have the same freedom of movement as other Cuban citizens.

"Defections at international tournaments have increased sharply in recent years, but Cuban authorities know that the island's amateur baseball league would be deserted if players could sign contracts with professional teams in the US, Latin America and Asia," Havana said.

Here's an extensive list of professional MLB Cuban baseball players, some who began playing in the US as early as 1911.

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President Raul Castro, 81, promised migration reforms after he took over for his brother Fidel in 2006. However, according to the AFP, no much has materialized, as many Cubans are dogged by an expensive and bureaucratic process to obtain exit permits.

However, a Cuban doctor, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, told the news wire that Cuba was ending its travel restrictions on health care professionals. Now this group will reportedly be treated "like any other citizen," effective January 14.

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans have illegally fled to the US, where, if they reach sovereign US soil, they are automatically granted residency.

Nick Miroff contributed from Havana, Cuba.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/world-at-play/cuba-athletes-travel-restricted-citizen-fans-have-right