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Rubio calls on Trump to overrule illegal Major League Baseball deal with Cuba, allowed by Obama

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio slammed an ‘illegal and immoral’ baseball deal with Cuba aimed at making it easier for Cuban players to reach the big leagues.

The Florida Republican vowed he would do what he could to overrule the recent deal between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation that supposedly works at preventing the smuggling of Cuban baseball players, the Miami Herald reported.

In a series of tweets on Thursday, the Cuban-American lawmaker questioned the legality of the Dec. 19 announcement about the agreement based on a ruling under former President Barack Obama which held that the Cuban Baseball Federation was not controlled by the government of Cuba.

According to the Miami Herald:

MLB officials said Friday that prior to announcing the agreement — which had been under negotiation for the past three years — the organization had been in touch with officials from the Trump administration and there was no indication that the deal was anything other than legal.

In 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department concluded that the FCB isn’t part of the Cuban government. An attorney familiar with the negotiations said its status is considered similar, for example, to the U.S. Olympic Committee, which is independent of the U.S. government.

 

“We are surprised that some politicians oppose an agreement that is designed to end human trafficking, that our players who were victims of human trafficking support, and that provides no economic benefit to MLB,” the league said in a statement on Friday.

Rubio warned that the MLB deal would allow a new tax on players’ earnings to be imposed by the Cuban government.

Obama’s 2016 visit to the country under rule for decades by the late Fidel Castro, sparked heavy bipartisan criticism from U.S. lawmakers. Obama’s appearance at an exhibition baseball game in Havana also drew major backlash as the former president claimed he was looking to launch a new relationship with the communist country.

[State Department photo/ Public Domain]
Cuban players 25 years or older are eligible to sign Major League contracts while still in Cuba under the new deal, freeing them from contracts with the Cuban Baseball Federation while still allowing them to stay connected to families and Cuban baseball, the Miami Herald reported.

Rubio hoped that President Donald Trump or the U.S. Department of State would intervene against the “terrible one-sided” three-year agreement. Following the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in November 2016, then President-elect Trump vowed he would reverse Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations the U.S. neighbor.

In another tweet on Thursday, Rubio cited a National Review article calling on Trump to put a stop to the deal.

“The deal rewards and perpetuates Cuba’s Communist-style system in which players are the property of the state, not free individuals who can sell their talents on the open market,” Elliott Abrams wrote in the piece which was subtitled, “Don’t steal from players’ salaries to fund a Communist regime.”

“This story of human trafficking, of exploitation by a Communist state, and of dangerous escapes from Cuba was overlooked by Major League Baseball,” Abrams wrote. “The cure for that situation was simple: Change the rules so that any Cuban player who escapes to freedom can sign a contract.”

Abrams noted that the deal sees baseball owners essentially bribing the Cuban regime with part of a player’s salary. “And they’re asking the Trump administration to sign off on this plan by granting an exception to the Cuban embargo,’ he explained.

“Under the Obama administration, the Treasury Department gave MLB special permission to negotiate this deal despite the embargo, which usually prevents sending money to the regime,” Abrams continued, noting that with Trump, there is now ” a new sheriff in town.”

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,” a senior administration official said following the MLB’s announcement, the Washington Post reported.

Frieda Powers

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