The Trump administration has canceled a deal between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation that would allow Cuban players to join professional teams in the United States and Canada.
Under the four-month-old agreement, a major league club wishing to sign certain Cuban players would have to pay a release fee – 25 percent over the player's signing bonus – to the Federation. The player should also pay Cuban income taxes on foreign income.
The deal, initially negotiated under President Barack Obama, encountered immediate opposition from the Trump administration.
Morry Gash / AP
It was designed to put an end to the often dangerous pattern of ambitious Cuban stars who wish to join major competitions by abusing and smuggling themselves with help from human traffickers from Cuba. Under the agreement, Cuban players are allowed to return to the island during the low season, unlike those who fail.
A senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in a briefing that the agreement itself was a form of "human trafficking" of the Cuban government and that the Cuban baseball federation is a subsidiary of the Cuban government.
"We look forward to the day when Cuban baseball players can fully contract with Major League Baseball like players from every other country in the world and not as pawns of the Cuban dictatorship," the official reporters said.
Major League Baseball defended the plan.
"We support the aim of the agreement, which is to stop the human trafficking of baseball players from Cuba," said Vice President Michael Teevan, in a short e-mail with a statement.
The government blocked the baseball deal just a few days after the Cuban federation released the names of 34 players who were eligible to sign with MLB teams. Cuban players older than 25 and with six years of experience were eligible for the scheme. Younger players needed the Cuban Baseball Federation & # 39; s blessing to play for MLB teams.
"The agreement with #MLB seeks to combat human trafficking, encourage cooperation and raise baseball levels," said the Cuban Baseball Federation in a post on Twitter as quoted by Reuters. "Every opposing idea is false news: attacks with political motivation against the agreement reached harm the athletes, their families and the fans."
Some Florida legislators had opposed the baseball agreement because it was an accommodation with the Cuban government. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, in December, called the deal "both illegal and immoral."
Among the Cuban players who have gone over in recent years and have done many signs with MLB clubs are Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, Yoenis Cespedes of the New York Mets and Yasiel Puig of the Cincinnati Reds.