Trump wants MLB to pressure Cuba to give up support for Venezuela: report

Trump wants MLB to pressure Cuba to give up support for Venezuela: report
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The White House may rethink its decision to block an agreement to allow Cubans to play for Major League Baseball without defecting if MLB applies pressure on Cuba to draw down its ties with Venezuela’s government, according to NPR.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE met Monday with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who discussed concerns that under the status quo, Cuban players often risk their lives on the journey to the U.S.

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The White House told NPR that in exchange for ongoing talks with MLB, it seeks the league’s assistance on Venezuela.

"The administration will continue to hold the Cuban regime accountable for its direct role in the trafficking of its citizens from the island," a White House official told NPR.

"The administration looks forward to finding productive ways to work with MLB to help the people of Venezuela, a country that has a rich history with MLB but has been destabilized by Cuba's interference,” the official added.

The Trump administration has blamed the Cuban government for helping Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro remain in power.

In audio published by The Washington Post last week, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump fires back at Graham over Iran criticism Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US Republicans wary of US action on Iran MORE told a private meeting that Maduro “is surrounded by Cubans” and mistrusts his Venezuelan advisers.

The meeting indicated “a meaningful change from 60 days ago” when the White House announced it would block the arrangement, negotiated under the Obama administration, according to John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

But Kavulich told NPR the Cuban government is unlikely to abandon its ties to Venezuela for the MLB deal.

"They've added elements to the resolution process, and the elements they've added are incredibly difficult for MLB or governments to resolve in the short to medium term," Kavulich said.

"Anytime that an issue gets linked to what is happening to Venezuela or how Cuba is connected to Venezuela, turn off the lights, and read a good book,” he added.

The White House canceled the deal, which also would have allowed MLB to directly sign Cuban players once they reach a certain age or professional service time threshold, in April.