The United States has had a long and tempestuous relationship with communist Cuba. After communist dictator Fidel Castro seized American assets in Cuba, President John Kennedy announced an economic, political and commercial embargo on the island in 1962. In this way, America showed its rejection for the regime that has not stopped depriving Cubans of fundamental human rights and persecuting the Church.
President Obama kept his promises to “normalize” relations with Cuba by restoring diplomatic relations and easing the embargo on December 17, 2014. He stated that the new agreement might bring “a better future — for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world.”
Not much has changed since then. Cubans still live in misery. Catholics are still oppressed. It is no wonder that many risk their lives by fleeing from the island-prison. Among those taking risks are Cuba’s talented baseball players who often resort to smugglers so that they can control their own destinies by defecting to America to play professional baseball. About ninety Cuban players have taken this perilous route to the major leagues.
In the spirit of “a better future,” the Cuban government and Major League Baseball have just signed an agreement allowing Cuban professional players to avoid the harrowing escapes and come to the U.S. without defecting.
Approval From the Press
The sports press is thrilled by the news. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement saying that he hoped that the agreement will “end the trafficking of baseball players from Cuba by criminal organizations by creating a safe and legal alternative for those players to sign with major league clubs.”
They signers hope to avoid the problems of Yasiel Puig, a Cuban player who tried to come to the U.S. through Mexico. He fell into the hands of a Mexican gang that threatened to cut off his arms if he did not pay a $250,000 ransom. Mr. Puig was later released, and he signed a $42 million baseball contract.
The Unhappy Details
Such an agreement may seem wonderful until reading the actual terms of the agreement. No one is considering the freedom and safety of the players. It is all about benefits for the league and the control for the Cuban government.
The key player in the agreement is the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB). Like all such organizations in Cuba, the FCB is closely supervised by the regime. One of its vice-presidents is Fidel Castro’s son, Antonio.
Both President Trump and Senator Marco Rubio oppose the agreement. The Florida senator claims that “The deal between MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation is both illegal and immoral. This terrible one-sided agreement will only enrich the regime and further exploit the Cuban people.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the FCB will get a “release fee” of between 15-20 percent of any contract signed by players. The FCB claims the fees will be used, “for baseball purposes.”
Players or Peons?
The Miami Herald carries the following justification, “The MLB noted that under the former system ‘players reportedly pay human traffickers a large portion of salaries and bonuses in return for getting them out of Cuba.’” It appears the government has assumed the lucrative role.
Both sides stand to gain since the major leagues know that getting a coveted player depends on cutting a deal with the FCB and not an agent that can demand more. Thus, the player is a pawn in the hands of these two massive organizations.
The Castroist regime has long engaged in human-trafficking schemes. It has placed Cubans abroad to work as doctors, nurses and functionaries for foreign companies or governments in situations much like indentured servants. The workers are “volunteers” who agree to dire conditions at home in exchange for a small portion of their salaries. Meanwhile, family members remain at home as sureties for their good behavior.
President Obama’s statement “normalizing” the US-Cuba relationship contained the language, “Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.”
Who could have known that this would lead to a situation in which the Cubans are treated as government property, and the promised opportunities only benefit Major League Baseball and the government-controlled Federación Cubana de Béisbol?
Curiously, everyone is talking about the best way to get the baseball players out of the country. No one is talking about why they want to leave the socialist paradise in the first place.