White House aims to stop MLB deal with Cuba
The Trump administration is expected to take steps to block a historic agreement that would allow Cuban players to join Major League Baseball teams without having to defect, according to an official familiar with the discussions.
The administration wants to reverse an Obama-era ruling that says the Cuban government doesn’t run the island’s professional baseball league. Such a position gave MLB space to negotiate and reach the deal with Cuban baseball and circumvent the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
Sen. Marco Rubio, RFlorida, who vowed to fight the deal between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball federation, has been pressing the State Department to review the 2016 ruling and asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo personally to rule that the Cuban government controls the island baseball league and therefore nullify the deal.
“The deal between MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation is both illegal and immoral,” Rubio told McClatchy. “This terrible one-sided agreement will only enrich the regime and further exploit the Cuban people.”
The crux of the agreement rests on the Obama administration ruling that the Cuban Baseball Federation is an independent entity from the government. In 2016, MLB obtained a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Treasury Department to reach an agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation.
It is up to Treasury to revoke the license, but it first needs guidance from the State Department. State is currently reviewing the foreign policy guidance from 2016. Once that process is complete, State will provide guidance to Treasury and then OFAC can provide a response to MLB. Without guidance from State, Treasury can’t revoke or grant a license.
The administration did not respond to specific questions about plans to scuttle the deal, but officials have been clear they feel the agreement would “institutionalize a system by which a Cuban body garnishes the wages of hard-working athletes who simply seek to live and compete in a free society.”
MLB officials said they had been in regular contact with the Trump administration.