It seems one of the conditions to enter into the US is NOT to seek any financial gain. The week before Christmas, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control rejected Cuba’s application to play in the World Baseball Classic, because of “concerns that Castro’s government could enjoy financial gain by participating.”

Based on the regulation of tournament, Cuba would get the 1 percent of tournament revenues and 5 percent if it won, that is not allowed by U.S. Treasury Department.
The World Baseball Classic is an 18-day, 16-team World Cup-style tournament. The tournament is scheduled to begin on March 3 that will bring together some of the world’s best baseball players on teams representing their home countries.

Even thought the event is scheduled for March, a 60-man roster is due on Jan. 17, so there is some urgency to resolve Cuba’s fate. Cuba is slated to play in Pool C of the tournament and is scheduled to play its first game on March 8 against Panama in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Paul Archey, MLB’s vice president of international business operations, “MLB intends to “exhaust all avenues to have Cuba participate” before taking an alternate route.”

“I’m not really sure why [the Treasury Dept.] is making these objections,” Archey said. “That’s what we’re trying to get our arms around.”

“The People United. Shall never be divided!”
In an effort to show solidarity among the Latin American countries, Puerto Rico’s Amateur Baseball Federation of Puerto Rico made the decision to protest the US decision by announcing it would not host games if the Cubans were not allowed to participate. Should Puerto Rico decide to withdraw itself as a host city, this too would put the WBC in a major dilemma. It is easier to find a replacement team, but it is harder to find a host city and make all the necessary arrangements.

Israel Roldan, the president of the Amateur Baseball Federation of Puerto Rico, was quoted in Puerto Rico’s Primera Hora that he had sent a letter to the International Baseball Federation saying that Puerto Rico was renouncing its decision to be a tournament host because Cuba was being excluded “for reasons not regarding sports or Olympic spirit.” Although, International Baseball Federation president, Aldo Notari, told The Associated Press that it’s the decision of the Major League Baseball’s to remove Puerto Rico as a host; “The position of Roldan is very good and very clear;” said Notari.

Other support has come from Hector Cardona, president of Puerto Rico’s Olympic Committee. It has been reported that Cardona has been talking to other athletic officials from Latin American in an effort to enlist their support to persuade Bush to change its position.

To combat this united front, South Florida Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who supported the Treasury Department decision to deny a license for Cuba, has recruited team of Cuban players who defected to the United States during the past two decades to represent the country. Diaz-Balart said: “We cannot–we will not–give money to the government of Cuba. Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. What kind of message would we be sending if we lifted our embargo? That it’s OK to oppress human rights? That it’s OK to stifle free market economy? By vetoing their appearance in the WBC, we’re sending the world a message that we won’t tolerate any countries with ideologies different than ours, especially dirt poor ones.”

Players that are currently being recruited included are former Boston bullpen coach Euclides Rojas, Osvaldo Fernandez, Eddie Oropesa and Rene Arocha, the first Cuban defector to play in the majors.

“We represent Cuban baseball because we were born, were raised with and played that baseball in Cuba,” Oropesa said. “But because professional baseball is not allowed in Cuba, we had to defect and leave our families behind and begin a new life.”

Cuba continues to out shine Bush in the humanitarian front: Tournament Proceeds will go to the Katrina Effort
According to Reuters, Cuba said it would donate any money received from World Baseball Classic to Hurricane Katrina victims if the U.S. Government reverses a controversial decision to deny Cuba’s participation.

Cuba has gone on the offensive by labeling the Bush administration’s position as “shameful” and “absurd” and “having nothing to do with sports.” Fidel Castro, even went as far to say, “He is very much a fool,” talking about Bush.

In a letter to Major League Baseball, the Federation wrote: “The Cuban baseball federation, in an effort to find options, would be ready for the money corresponding to its participation in the classic to go to the victims of Hurricane Katrina left homeless in New Orleans,”

The letter further says:

How can one speak of a World Baseball Classic in which the Cuban Olympic and World Championship team is not represented?

We defend baseball and its significance for our people.

We cannot allow ourselves to be dragged along by the ultraconservatives characterizing the present United States government.

Once again we are open to seek solutions and ways to evaluate possible participation of our team.

It is not for the money that the OFAC puts forward as the motive for our interest in competing. We are a federation from a poor but dignified country; our only plan is to cooperate so that baseball continues developing and achieves inclusion again in the Olympic program in the near future. We never compete for money.

The Cuban Baseball Federation, in order to offer options, would be willing to donate the proceeds corresponding from its participation in the Classic to:

The victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

The US Hypocrasy
According to the New York Times, a delegation of Cuban athletes were able to obtained visas, five months ago from the US without any difficulty. They were allowed to play their games in Seattle and Foxborough, Mass. Ted Howard, the deputy secretary general of Concacaf, the soccer confederation of North and Central America and the Caribbean, said the Cubans were able to attain their visas because they went through “normal channels.” The State Department did not give the Cubans any trouble.

Concacaf spokesman, Steve Torres, said, “This is the same as granting visas for Cuban athletes to participate in the Olympics.”

But in US fashion, Treasury Department, would not comment on why the Cuban soccer players were permitted to play in the United States and the baseball team was forbidden.

Castro does a Little Baseball Trash Talking
One has to wonder why Bush allowed the Treasury Department to deny the Cuban teams from coming to the US. Could it be that Bush fears a country that currently dominates the Amateur baseworld? Last month, Castro did a little baseball trash talking. “We can do it better and take on the major leagues. … For each player that leaves, 10 better ones arise,” Castro said.

Like the US a national slogan “America’s Past Time,” Cuba too has made baseball its national sport and through out the world, Cuba has dominated international baseball. It has won every International Baseball Amateur Federation’s World Cup since 1984. Cuba also took the gold medal for baseball at the 1992, 1996 and 2004 Olympics, only falling once to the United States in the finals at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

It will be interesting to see what develops in the upcoming months. It would be wise for the Bush administration to leave politics out on this sports. I would think that other Major League Players would jump on this issue considering Castro did challenge the US regarding who are the true World Series Champions. Lets drop the politics and “Play Ball!”

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