An abstract ethical question for most people is whether you would take $1 million or $5 million or $10 million to leave Canada, never to return and never to see your friends and family again. For talented Cuban baseball players, there is nothing abstract about that question at all.
Yozzen Cuesta abandoned his teammates in Prince George during the World Baseball Challenge, disappearing Wednesday night in a likely effort to escape Cuba and land in the United States where the possibility of making millions of dollars playing baseball await.
Two weeks ago, another Cuban first baseman who played in Prince George during the 2011 edition of the World Baseball Challenge, Jose Dariel Abreu, walked away from his club team in Haiti and later showed up on the other side of the island in the Dominican Republic.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez also played on the Cuban team that was in Prince George two years ago and defected earlier this year. Last month, the pitcher signed a six-year, $48-million contract to throw baseballs for the Philadelphia Phillies.
If money talks, then Gonzalez, and potentially Abreu and now Cuesta, had 48 million reasons to flee their home country that they will likely never see again.
There are major league baseball scouts waiting to help these Cuban players escape while playing in international tournaments. Cuesta was most likely long gone from Prince George before he was even discovered to be missing. Since Canada has diplomatic relations with Cuba, he would have to claim refugee status and he could end up being sent home. But if he can be spirited across the border onto American soil, then he can defect. Once some legal work is done, he can get busy earning a living as a professional baseball player.
If he isn't south of the 49th parallel or in Alaska already, he and the people who aided in his disappearance are actively working on getting him through a border crossing.
Should he be applauded for his choice? That depends, but as Canadians living in a free and open democracy, we can't be too quick to judge.
He likely left with the blessing of his parents and immediate family but didn't say goodbye to anyone else for fear his plan would come to light. As a future American, and possibly one worth millions of dollars, he may be able to bring them to him some day down the road.
But he also left his family and friends behind to bear the consequences of his departure, which may include everything from social rejection, job loss and financial ruin to interrogations and prison.
Hardly a simple matter.
Yet even if Cuesta is reunited with his family and goes on to have a Hall of Fame career in Major League Baseball, he will never be the most famous Cuban defector with Prince George connections.
That distinction belongs to Kim Phuc.
Phuc was the subject of the most famous news photograph from the Vietnam War, a naked young girl running down the road screaming in pain, the victim of a napalm attack on her village by American forces. As an adult, she ended up in Cuba to pursue an education in medicine. Returning to Cuba from Moscow after her honeymoon, her plane stopped for refuelling in Gander, Newfoundland. She and her husband left the plane and sought political asylum. Today, they are Canadian citizens living in Toronto.
The local connection to Phuc comes through former Prince George resident Denise Chong, who wrote the compelling biography of Phuc's life, The Girl In The Picture.
Phuc left to end a career as a propaganda puppet ,where she was held up by Communist leaders as a living example of the evils of American imperialism and the moral superiority of the Communist system. Since becoming a Canadian citizen, she has devoted her life to advocate for the aid and protection of child victims of war.
She fled a comfortable life in Cuba for an uncertain future. Cuesta also fled a comfortable life in Cuba but to pursue greater fame and outrageous wealth playing a game.
On the surface, it seems clear whose intentions are more pure.