White House aims to stop MLB deal with Cuba

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY FRANCO ORDOÑEZ for­[email protected]­clatchydc.com

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.

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