Trump administration ends Cuba-MLB deal

The Trump administration has cancelled a four-month old deal between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation.

"The US 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," NSC spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement.


The deal allowed MLB teams to directly sign Cuban players who have reached certain age or professional service time minimums. It also allowed Cuban players to play in the U.S. without having to defect — by bringing their families and returning to the island in the offseason.

The agreement, negotiated under the Obama administration, allowed players to receive 100 percent of a signing bonus while MLB teams paid an additional 25 percent of that to the Cuban federation, with the players paying Cuban income tax on foreign earnings.

A senior administration official told The Washington Post that the arrangement amounted to "human trafficking."

"The Administration looks forward to working with MLB to identify ways for Cuban players to have the individual freedom to benefit from their talents, and not as property of the Cuban State," Marquis added on Twitter.

The changes are part of a broader effort to raise pressure on Cuba and Nicaragua, two countries that support Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Major League Baseball has been informed of the dangers of dealing with Cuba,” a senior administration official told the Journal.

In December, Major League Baseball and its players union reached an agreement with Cuba’s baseball federation similar to existing arrangements with Japan and South Korea.

“Cuba wants to use baseball players as economic pawns – selling their rights to Major League Baseball,” White House national security adviser John Bolton tweeted Sunday. “America’s national pastime should not enable the Cuban regime‘s support for Maduro in Venezuela.”

Last week, the Trump administration announced sanctions on two Venezuelan firms that transport oil to Cuba.

"Cuba continues to profit from, and prop up, the illegitimate Maduro regime through oil-for-repression schemes as they attempt to keep Maduro in power," Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Waters clashes with Trump officials over 'disastrous' housing finance plan | Dems jump into Trump turf war over student loans | House passes bill targeting anonymous shell companies Two new Trump executive orders will shape up Treasury and hold bureaucracy accountable Trump has floated Mnuchin, Conway for White House chief of staff: report MORE said in a statement Friday. "The United States remains committed to a transition to democracy in Venezuela and to holding the Cuban regime accountable for its direct involvement in Venezuela’s demise."

The U.S. and many other countries have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela.

-Updated 5:15 p.m.