Trump Administration Ends MLB's Deal With Cuba

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A deal signed by Major League Baseball and Cuban Baseball Federation in December was cancelled by the Trump administration on Monday.

Last week, Cuba's baseball league said 34 players would be eligible to sign contracts directly with US teams.

The deal with Cuban was tendered by the Obama Administration and solidified only previous year. In the past, some Cuban stars have undertaken risky escapes, including being smuggled off the island in speedboats. U.S. President Barack Obama attend the game after being the first sitting president to visit Cuba in 88 years. Trump has especially stepped up pressure on Cuba recently over its support for Venezuela's socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.

"For years, Major League Baseball has been seeking to end the trafficking of baseball players from Cuba by criminal organizations by creating a safe and legal alternative for those players to sign with major league clubs", Manfred said.

"Any contrary idea is false news", it said. "The politically motivated attacks on the deal hurt players, their families, and fans".

"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", said Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council. The Obama administration granted this, saying that it did not view the Cuban Baseball Federation as part of the Cuban government.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said MLB's payments to Cuba was more like a "ransom", and that the island nation wants "legalized trafficking of persons".

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"One way or another, it's human trafficking", the US official told NBC.

Major League Baseball requested a meeting with government officials, though no meeting was granted, sources told ESPN.

Some Cuban players, in an effort to make it to professional baseball in America, have moved to a third country and established citizenship before trying out for MLB teams.

One sticking point over the deal was that the Obama administration arbitrarily ruled that the Cuban Baseball Federation was somehow an independent organization and not run by the Cuban government.

Cuba maintains, however, that its baseball federation is not part of the state.

The basis for the USA government's argument here is that, since Cuba is single-party communist state with no real private sector, any financial support provided to their baseball apparatus qualifies as financial support for the authoritarian regime run by President Miguel Diaz-Canel and First Secretary Raul Castro, according to documents obtained by ESPN. The change again will require Cuban players to cut ties with their national program before signing.

On Monday, the Trump administration revoked that short-lived privilege and now made it necessary for Cuban players to defect in order to play. While playing on the Cuban national team in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2009, he defected. The U.S. baseball clubs, similar to the deals they have with foreign players from Japan and other countries, would have paid 25 percent of the players signing bonus to the federation.

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