Trump administration kills Major League Baseball deal with Cuba

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Yasiel Puig greets his teammates before an opening day baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates Thursday

Under the agreement, players who met specific criteria could sign with major league teams without repercussions, and would receive a signing bonus for doing so. U.S. President Barack Obama attend the game after being the first sitting president to visit Cuba in 88 years.

A deal signed by Major League Baseball and Cuban Baseball Federation in December was cancelled by the Trump administration on Monday.

A list of 34 Cuban players who were to be eligible to play in the MLB had been released by the Cuban Baseball Federation on April 3.

President Donald Trump is now attacking Major League Baseball in an effort to appeal to the Cuba hardliners in Florida.

The agreement between Cuba and Major League Baseball was reached late previous year, during the Trump administration, although the negotiations were taking place under a special licence that dated back to the Obama era.

The existing deal will not be allowed to go forward because it was based on an erroneous ruling by the former Obama administration that the Cuban Baseball Federation was not part of Cuba's Communist government, a senior USA official said.

Under the deal agreed by MLB and the Cuban federation in December, MLB teams were going to pay the federation a fee ranging from 15 percent to 25 percent of the value of player contracts.

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The Obama administration granted this, saying that it did not view the Cuban Baseball Federation as part of the Cuban government.

"The U.S. does not support actions that would institutionalize a system by which a Cuban government entity garnishes the wages of hard-working athletes who simply seek to live and compete in a free society", National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement.

In a statement, MLB vice president Michael Teevan said the league stands by the goal of the deal, "which is to end the human trafficking of baseball players from Cuba". Under the agreement, Cuban players may return to the island during the off-season, unlike those who defect. The letter was made public Monday afternoon.

Chapman defected from Cuba in 2009 while with the Cuban national baseball team in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and signed with the Reds in 2010.

The deal was seen as an effort to eliminate the risky trafficking that had gone on for decades, which the Major League Baseball referenced in its letter to the Treasury and State departments, with Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu and Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes among those whose harrowing journeys were cited.

On Friday, the Trump administration blocked the agreement from materializing. It's definitely hard for a lot of Cuban players who are not playing at this level here in the States. One year earlier, he attempted to defect Cuba, but that plot was foiled, and he was eventually kept off the Cuban team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, according to ESPN.

"We are unsure of the next steps", an Major League Baseball source said. It really doesn't affect us here.

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