Wed, Apr 10, 2019 - Page 16 News List

US government scuttles MLB-Cuba deal


The administration of US President Donald Trump on Monday threw out a deal between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation that would have allowed Cubans to play in the US without having to defect.

ESPN sports news network published a letter from the US Department of the Treasury to the MLB informing the US professional league of the move.

The MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation in December last year announced that they had reached a historic agreement that would allow Cuban players to sign with MLB teams.

However, the signing of Cuban players by the MLB involved a payment to the Cuban Baseball Federation and that fueled the objection of the US Department of the Treasury.

“A payment to the Cuban Baseball Federation is a payment to the Cuban government,” the department said in the letter obtained by ESPN.

US law prohibits transactions with the Cuban government other than some cultural and educational exchanges.

“The US does not support actions that would institutionalize a system by which a Cuban government entity garnishes the wages of hard-working athletes who simply seek to live and compete in a free society,” US National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said.

“The administration looks forward to working with MLB to identify ways for Cuban players to have the individual freedom to benefit from their talents and not as property of the Cuban state,” Marquis said on Twitter.

The Cuban Baseball Federation condemned the decision.

“The agreement with MLB seeks to stop the trafficking of human beings, encourage cooperation and raise the level of baseball,” it said in a tweet. “Any contrary idea is false news. Attacks with political motivation against the agreement achieved harm the athletes, their families and the fans.”

The agreement reached in December last year between the MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation was the culmination of more than three years of negotiations.

Prior to the agreement, Cuban players had been forced to defect, often making deals with shady traffickers to escape Cuba and play in the US.

An example of the lengths Cuban players would go to reach the MLB is Cincinnati Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig, who after multiple failed defection attempts arranged to be taken to Mexico by a drug cartel that kept him hostage until it was paid US$250,000 for his release.

“For years, Major League Baseball has been seeking to end the trafficking of baseball players from Cuba by criminal organizations,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said at the time. “We believe this agreement accomplishes that objective and will allow the next generation of Cuban players to pursue their dream without enduring many of the hardships experienced by current and former Cuban players who have played Major League Baseball.”

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