Good to their word, Major league Baseball (MLB) has reapplied for a permit with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The permit is necessary for Cuba to play in the World Baseball Classic (WBC)scheduled for this March. Baseball spokesman, Paul Courtney spoke on
Thursday and assured that the application would try to allay any
concerns the OFAC has about any monetary proceeds going from U.S. entities to Cuba.
Each team involved in the WBC is scheduled to receive 1 percent of the tournament’s proceeds with the winner receiving up to 5 percent. The conflict between MLB and
the U.S. government has developed because of strict embargos on Cuba
that do not allow for them to profit from any business venture
involving a U.S. entity.
The international community has not reacted well to the news of Cuba’s
possible exclusion from the WBC.
Puerto Rican baseball officials have threatened to have San Juan
removed as one of the host cities in protest of Cuba’s potential
non-participation. Israel Rolden, president of the Baseball Federation of Puerto Rico sent a letter on Wednesday to the International Baseball Federation (IBF)
stating that the island would decline to be a venue because of the U.S.
government’s decison. On Thursday, he reinforced Puerto Rico’s
intention when he said,
"What we are saying is that we should renounce our position as host if Cuba is not permitted to compete".
On another front, Hector Cardona, president of the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee
has been talking with other Latin American athletic officials trying to
enlist their support. The exclusion of Cuba would actually help Puerto
Rico competitively because Cuba is set to play in a first round bracket
that includes Panama, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands. However, Puerto
Rico has a lot of pride in their baseball and only want play the best.
Puerto Rico and Cuba are separated by only 150 miles of water. Historically, Puerto Rico has always been a step-brother
to Cuba. During their long fights for independence- both were colonized
by Spain; both agreed to Charters of Autonomy with Spain in 1897; and
both were invaded by the United States during the Spanish-American War.
A weakened Spain ceded both to the U.S in 1898 (Treaty of Paris) ending
the War. Of course, Cuba eventually did gain it’s independence while
Puerto Rico became a U.S. Commonwealth as well as the launch site for
the U.S. military during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Adding to the building drama is a team of Cuban-born Americans that
Florida congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart is forming as an alternative to
the national team of Cuba. The group is not recognized by the IBF as an official federation. The team already includes former MLB
players, Rene Arocha, Osvaldo Fernandez, and Eddie Oropesa and plans on
trying to lure Jose Contreras, Livan Hernandez and Orlando Hernandez as
well. Through their spokesmen the present group said,
"We would like to represent the team of free Cuba…our lineup is ready"
Baseball spokesman Paul Courtney said MLB is dealing only with groups recognized by the IBF.
"Although we have never competed for money,
in order to offer options the Cuban Baseball Federation would be
willing for the money associated with participation in the classic to
go to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans."
The OFAC has not said when they will come to a decision as they begin deliberating on the new permit application.
Click On Flags To See Them Wave!