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Posted January 20, 2006 by publisher in Cuban Sports

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BY OSCAR CORRAL AND PABLO BACHELET | MiamiHerald.com

The Treasury Department Friday announced it has cleared the way for Cuba to play in this year’s World Baseball Classic after an agreement that bars Havana from profiting.

‘‘Working closely with World Baseball Classic, Inc., and the State Department, we were able to reach a licensable agreement that upholds both the legal scope and the spirit of the sanctions,’’ Molly Millerwise, a Treasury Department spokeswoman said, reading from a prepared statement.

Treasury earlier had denied the special license required by U.S. economic sanctions on the communist-ruled island. The Bush Administration has tightened the sanctions in an effort to deny resources to Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s government.

Millerwise declined to discuss how the administration came to the decision amid intense lobbying by Cuban American lawmakers against letting the team play in a tournament billed as the first time that the world’s best professional and amateur baseball players can play against each other.

image Eric Gay / AP File

But both Treasury and the State Department stressed that the license approval announced Friday ll decision does not signal a new approach on Cuba.

Millerwise said the agreement ‘‘ensured that no funding will make its way in the hands of the Castro regime,’’ and added that Treasury “looks forward to seeing all of the teams showcase their talents on the international stage.’‘

Eric Watnik, a spokesman for the Western Hemisphere bureau of the State Department, said the administration’s policy still was to deny any funds to the Castro government.

He said the second license application was “in full compliance with U.S. policy on Cuba. Our decision in both the previous denial and this approval is fully consistent with U.S. regulations and the normal procedures for sports exchanges.’‘

Cuba has offered to donate any proceeds from the tournament to victims of Hurricane Katrina, or skip any payments altogether.

Another official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the subject, said the administration also received assurances that no Cuban government members would be included in the “who shouldn’t be traveling (to the United States).’‘

Cuba’s powerhouse national baseball team, like most of the island’s other sports teams, are often accompanied on trips abroad by security agents because of fears of defections. Dozens of Cuban athletes have defected over the years.

Major League Baseball and the Players Association organized the World Baseball Classic to be played in March by 16 of the world’s teams. Cuba’s team regularly wins the Olympics and other international tourneys.

About 80 members of Congress weighed in after the first application for a license was rejected, saying that Cuba should be allowed to play ball. MLB officials reapplied last month for the permit.

Despite the resolution to the baseball issue, tensions between the two nations are likely to continue dogging Cuba’s participation in U.S. sporting events.

Just Friday, Cuba’s official GRANMA newspaper carried a story protesting a U.S. decision to deny visas to two cyclists and their trainer to take part in the third stage of the World Cycling Cup qualifiers.

Jose Pelez, head of the Cuban Cycling Federation, was quoted as saying that the denial violates international sporting regulations that oblige host nations to guarantee entry to athletes to compete in international events. The event is to be held in Los Angeles on Jan. 20-23.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on January 20, 2006 by CWS

    WOW! Terrific news. Thanks for posting…But I’m still not giving up my Yankees cap…


  2. Follow up post #2 added on January 20, 2006 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Bush 21 Cuba 1


    Well, I just guessed at the President’ successful political wins against Cuba but at least Cuba is now on the board with this win.

    I don’t like to be un-American but I hope Cuba beats the US team. What a story!



    Cuba consulting services

  3. Follow up post #3 added on January 20, 2006 by Chuck Bailey

    I want to see the Cuban players get an opportunity to play for the team that offers the most money, after the tournament. Chuck


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