HAVANA, Dec 7 (Reuters) – The United States will block several of Cuba’s top players from participating in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Cuba’s deputy foreign minister said on Wednesday, the latest in a series of clashes over a beloved sport. By fans of both nations.
Cuba last month asked some of the players who left the Caribbean island — long in the limelight — to represent their home country at the World Baseball Classic in March 2023. Others volunteered.
Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio said the development was a “positive step” and marked a change in tone in a country long branded traitors who abandoned their homeland.
But the United States, he said, has not yet approved Cuban athletes based in the United States to compete with their home country team in the event, even though it has authorized Cuba’s participation in the Classic.
“Everything that the United States does with Cuba is prohibited,” Di Cosio told Reuters in an interview in Havana. “If you live in the United States, do business, travel, drink, even play baseball in Cuba.”
“That’s the situation facing Cuban-trained ballplayers who play for the big leagues in the United States today and say they’re willing to play with their home country team.”
The US State Department did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters.
The United States’ Cold War-era embargo and more recent embargoes prohibit or complicate business and financial transactions with Cuba. Those rules prevent a Cuban ballplayer from signing with a US team without leaving his home country.
As a result, Cuban baseball talent has fled the country in unprecedented numbers over the past decade.
More than 650 Cuban ball players have defected to the United States and elsewhere in the past six years alone, according to state media reports.
Cuba’s talented bowlers led the country to gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, 1996 Atlanta and 2004 Athens, but the country failed to qualify for the 2020 Games in Tokyo for the first time.
Cuba will play the first game of the Classic series on March 8 in Taiwan.
Reporting by Dave Sherwood and Nelson Acosta in Havana; Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Andrea Ricci
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