Trump administration cancels MLB-Cuba deal

Arnold Nichols
April 10, 2019

Cuban national team members are escorted out onto the field by children as they are introduced before playing an exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Estado Latinoamericano in Havana, Cuba on March 22, 2016.

The Trump administration blocked an agreement that would have let Cuban baseball players come to the USA without having to defect, saying the deal would ultimately benefit the Cuban government.

Under the agreement, Major League Baseball teams would need to pay the FCB for the contractual release of players who are 24 years old or younger and have five or fewer years of service.

Paying the Cuban Baseball Federation for their baseball stars was the result of Obama administration negotiations between the MLB and Cuba, but the dealings didn't begin until after President Donald Trump took office.

The existing deal will not be allowed to go forward because it was based on an erroneous ruling by the former Obama administration that the Cuban Baseball Federation was not part of Cuba's Communist government, a senior US official said. The deal, which recognized the CBF as separate from the Cuban government, was also a way to end the trafficking of baseball players from Cuba into the United States.

According to the Post, a Trump administration official said that the payments were equal to "human trafficking" by the Cuban government.

"The objective is to end the risky trafficking of Cuban baseball players who desire to play professional baseball in the United States", the MLB said.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that the Cuban government essentially wanted "legalized trafficking of persons" in the accord with Major League Baseball.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement last December reiterating the league's path to baseball for Cuban athletes was a safe alternative. The decision made public Monday afternoon appears to make the MLB-Cuba deal unworkable by eliminating the payment mechanism, similar to one MLB has with leagues in China, Korea and Japan.

The letter from the Office of Foreign Assets Control obtained by The Associated Press agrees, saying that "in light of facts recently brought to our attention, and after consultation with the U.S. Department of State, OFAC has determined that MLB's payments to the Cuban Baseball Federation are not authorized". Others abandoned the Cuban national team while playing overseas. It's definitely hard for a lot of Cuban players who are not playing at this level here in the States. "But the way we got here, it was tough - to say the least", Chapman said.

On Friday, the Trump administration blocked the agreement from materializing. An earlier try in 2008 was foiled, and Chapman was kept off Cuba's team in the 2008 Olympics. "The biggest impact is going to be the guys who are back in Cuba".

'To know future Cuban players will not have to go through what we went through makes me so happy, ' he said in the statement.

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