HAVANA._ More than two months have passed since presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama made their historic statements about bilateral relations, but a supposed fast-track for Cuban baseball players to play in United States Leagues is still but a pipe dream.
When both presidents outlined their intentions to reestablish bilateral relations, a hypothetical legal link between the baseball leagues of both nations sparked off favourable comments. However, the situation then prevailing remains unchanged to date.
Obama and his Cuban counterpart made their statements last December 17 and a few weeks later, on January 27, the Department of the Treasury, through its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), released new rules that in no way favor players who reside in Cuba.
Since then, a Cuban player resident in another country does not need an OFAC licence to sign a contract with major league baseball clubs because he is recognized as having been “unblockaded“.
This means that a player can accede the free agency more easily, as all he has to do is to submit a sworn statement (affidavit) proving his place of residence in another country. This also saves him the troubles of going through the draft stage, which would deprive him of signing multimillion dollar contracts. However, such licenses are not granted to Cuban players who reside in their native country and, according to the new regulations “those with ties with the high circles of government and the Communist Party are also excluded“.
In this light, a Cuban player residing in his native country has to request permanent residency in the United States, register his residence in a third country, provide documents proving that he has lived outside of Cuba for two years or submit a sworn statement saying that he has no plans to return to his homeland permanently and provide details of a non-Cuban bank account.
The new regulations also establish that an “unblockaded” player will not be blockaded again unless he returns permanently to Cuba.
The message is very simple: for Cubans to play in the U.S. professional leagues, they must renounce to all ties with their native country.
The regulations are obviously exclusive and what is more, they do not allow for talks or negotiations between the MLB and Cuba´s Baseball Federation in order to establish relations similar to those that the Caribbean island and Japan have engaged in and thanks to which several Cuban players have been hired by Japanese clubs.
These regulations of course incite members of Cuban sports delegations to defect, a decision that very often amounts to a breach of contract between players and their home teams that take part in the National Series, the island´s top baseball tournament.
Moreover, the new regulations ban players from returning to their home clubs and playing with their country´s team in Central American and Pan American Games, the Caribbean Series and the World Classic tournament.
In summary, these new and exclusive regulations are very favourable to the U.S. while Cuba remains the party that is most negatively affected by them.Share on FB Share on TT