There is no better proof that comprehensive sanctions are useless and silly than this: U.S. sanctions on Cuba are going to prevent the participation of Cuba’s national baseball team in the Caribbean Series which will take place next February in Venezuela and will not involve any U.S. teams. Founded in 1949, with Cuba as one of the original founders, Cuba played in the annual series until 1961 when Castro banned professional sports on the island.
So there was quite a bit of excitement when several months ago Cuba said it would return to the series. But just as the excitement for mighty Casey faded when he struck out, hopes were quickly dashed for Cuba’s time at bat when OFAC struck them out before they could even get to the plate. Apparently the organizers of the Caribbean Series received a letter from Major League Baseball saying that players signed with the MLB couldn’t play in the tournament if Cuba participated. Most of the Carribean league players already have MLB contracts, even if only with the minor leagues, so excluding players with MLB contracts is a non-starter. And no one knows whether OFAC licenses could be obtained at all, much less in time.
MLB’s theory about the application of the sanctions to players under contract with the League is a bit bizarre, to say the least. Last time I checked, signing a contract with the MLB does not turn the player automatically into a U.S. person (or even an honorary one). I suppose the fear is that even if the player is playing in his personal capacity as a member of one of the Caribbean leagues he is still somehow a Major League player and this would bring down the wrath of OFAC on MLB. That being said, given the huge fines that OFAC can impose and the general perception that OFAC doesn’t play fairly, I can understand MLB’s reticence to run this risk.
One thing is certain: banning Cuba from the Caribbean series will not lead the current Cuban government to abdicate; nor will itwin the U.S. any friends among ordinary Cubans.