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Rubio Wants Trump To Sink Cuba Baseball Deal. Is He Endangering Cuban Players?

Cuban baseball star Yulieski Gourriel, who defected to the U.S. in 2016.
Nati Harnik
AP via Miami Herald
Cuban baseball star Yulieski Gourriel, who defected to the U.S. in 2016.

Last month Major League Baseball and communist Cuba agreed to let Cubans play pro ball in the U.S. – without having to defect. But now the Trump Administration – and especially Florida Senator Marco Rubio – are saying: not so fast.

For decades, if Cuban baseball players wanted to play in the U.S. Major Leagues, they first had to defect to a third country. That convoluted system made them vulnerable to smugglers and unscrupulous sports agents.

So last month Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation reached a deal: A Cuban player may now freely sign with a U.S. team, and the Cuban federation will receive a fee of up to 20 percent of that player’s U.S. salary.

That’s the part Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio calls an “immoral farce.” The deal stems from an Obama Administration ruling that Cuba’s baseball federation is not subject to the U.S. trade embargo against the Cuban regime. Rubio insists it is – and he wants President Trump to rule his way.

1/3— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 27, 2018

A McClatchy News Service report says the White House looks inclined to side with Rubio. But U.S. attorneys who represent Cuban baseball players warn against going back to the old system.

One of them – Paul Minoff of Fort Lauderdale – told WLRN he fears it would again put the Cubans “in danger of being exploited by traffickers.”

Copyright 2019 WLRN 91.3 FM

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.