The Trump Administration has signaled that it may be interested in revisiting the deal that would allow Major League Baseball to sign Cuban players, if the league pressures Cuba to give up its support of Venezuela.
According to sources, the administration said it might revisit its block of the league’s deal with the oppressive island nation if the league helps pressure the Cuban government into dropping its support of Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, NPR reported.
In April, the Trump Administration nixed the Obama-era deal MLB negotiated with Cuba to allow its players to play in the majors while remaining citizens of Cuba. The administration’s move would have meant that players would have had to defect before being able to play, because Cuba banned players from traveling to the U.S. for fear that they would defect.
A major sticking point with 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. But the Trump Administration insisted that the Cuban sports organization is clearly “an entity of the Cuban government” and could not be trusted.
But now Trump seems willing to talk further about the nixed deal if MLB and other entities with dealings in Cuba will work in concert to convince Cuba to stop supporting Madura in Venezuela.
“The administration will continue to hold the Cuban regime accountable for its direct role in the trafficking of its citizens from the island,” the White House told NPR. “The administration looks forward to finding productive ways to work with MLB to help the people of Venezuela, a country that has a rich history with MLB but has been destabilized by Cuba’s interference.”
But even as he noted that the renewed interest in negotiating over the league’s Cuba deal is a positive sign, John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, said linking Cuba’s relations with Venezuela will make negotiations even harder than they were before.
“They’ve added elements to the resolution process, and the elements they’ve added are incredibly difficult for MLB or governments to resolve in the short to medium term,” Kavulich told NPR. “Anytime that an issue gets linked to what is happening to Venezuela or how Cuba is connected to Venezuela, turn off the lights, and read a good book.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.