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Cuba welcomes possible talks with Major League Baseball on direct signings

Cuba welcomes possible talks with Major League Baseball on direct signings

Posted by PanamericanWorld on March 17, 2016
 

The head of the Cuban Baseball Federation said Wednesday the island welcomed possible negotiations with Major League Baseball on direct signings of elite players after new measures unveiled by the Obama administration further eased the decades-old economic embargo on the Communist-ruled island.

In statements to the press, Higinio Velez referred to the new rules allowing Cuban citizens to travel to the United States, obtain work visas and earn salaries from U.S. companies without severing ties with their homeland, saying that was a positive development that opens the door for talks facilitating a direct pipeline to the MLB for Cuban players.

Several Cuban-born stars, including Los Angeles Dodgers standout Yasiel Puig, currently play in the big leagues, but they had to defect from the island, sometimes embark on dangerous journeys to reach foreign soil and establish prior residency in a third country.

The negotiations are going to "start now ... What do we want? For our players to be able to play not only in the U.S. but anywhere, freely, without having to lose their nationality," the former manager of Cuba's national team said.

Referring to a March 22 exhibition game between Cuba's national team and the MLB's Tampa Bay Rays that Obama will attend, Velez said the U.S. president would receive a warm welcome and that the Cuban players "are in top form."

That game at Havana's emblematic Estadio Latinoamericano will be the first between Cuba's national squad and a big-league team since the two nations formally restored full diplomatic relations last July.

The United States on Tuesday announced a new package of measures to ease the 54-year-old embargo, which the Obama administration has unsuccessfully pushed for the Republican-controlled Congress to completely lift.

Among other things, Cubans - athletes or artists, for example - will be allowed to obtain a non-immigrant visa for a trip to the United States and earn a salary or compensation during their stay, while U.S. companies will be able to directly sponsor or hire citizens of the Caribbean island.

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