As the Trump administration cracks down on supporters of Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, it is reportedly planning a new waiver system that could seriously restrict Cuba's most important (and probably only) export to the US.
Top baseball talent.
Initially reported by WSJ and later confirmed by the White House, the Trump administration has informed MLB that it could impose a waiver system making it tougher for Cuban baseball players to play professional baseball in the US, citing "the dangers of doing business with Havana."
"Major League Baseball has been informed of the dangers of dealing with Cuba," a senior administration official said, adding that more details would be released on Monday.
In a sign of things to come, National Security Advisor John Bolton tweeted on Sunday that "America’s national pastime should not enable the Cuban regime‘s support for Maduro in Venezuela."
Cuba wants to use baseball players as economic pawns – selling their rights to Major League Baseball. America’s national pastime should not enable the Cuban regime‘s support for Maduro in Venezuela.— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) April 7, 2019
The crackdown follows an agreement struck between MLB and the Cuban government in December that allowed for the creation of a "safe, legal path" for Cuban players to travel to the US with their families and return to Cuba in the offseason.
Baseball and its players’ union reached an agreement with Cuba’s baseball federation in December designed to create a safe, legal path for players from the island nation to play professionally in the U.S. The pact called for Cuba to release players who had achieved certain age or professional service time requirements, allowing MLB teams to sign them directly. The team that acquired the player would then pay a fee to the Cuban federation—similar to arrangements MLB already had in place with Japan and South Korea. It also allowed players to travel to the U.S. with their families and return to Cuba in the off-season.
The decision to crack down on MLB's relationship with Cuba could be part of a broader effort to punish what the administration calls the "Troika of Tyranny" - Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
According to Rolling Stone, baseball has been Cuba's national obsession since the mid-19th century, and has been played professionally on the island since 1878. But until very recently, Cuban players hoping to make it big in the US have had to defect from their homeland.
One of the best-known Havana-born players to make it big in MLB is Jose Canseco. In retirement, Canseco has earned notoriety on twitter for his sporadic market calls and economic analysis.