Bush caves in on baseball classic

Campaign News | Friday, 20 January 2006

Cuba will play and donate earnings to Hurricane Katrina victims

NEW YORK 20 Jan: Cuba will be allowed to play in the World Baseball Classic, after all.

The Bush administration issued a license Friday allowing the Cubans to participate in the 16-team tournament.

Baseball's first application was denied in mid-December by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, but the commissioner's office and the players' association reapplied after Cuba said it would donate any profits it receives to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"The president wanted to see it resolved in a positive way," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Our concerns were centered on making sure that no money was going to the Castro regime and that the World Baseball Classic would not be misused by the regime for spying. We believe the concerns have been addressed."

U.S. laws aimed at punishing Fidel Castro's communist government prohibit certain commercial transactions with Cuba, generally attempting to deny money.

"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," Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said.

"This agreement ensures that no funding will make its way into the hands of the Castro regime. The Treasury is pleased to now be able to issue this license and looks forward to seeing all of the teams showcase their talents on the international stage."

After the initial rejection, the International Baseball Federation threatened to withdraw its sanction of the tournament if Cuba was not allowed to participate and Puerto Rico threatened to withdraw as a host.

"We were always positive," said Antonio Munoz, the promoter who paid millions of dollars to stage the first two rounds in Puerto Rico. "There were some negative people, but they were wrong in the end. I always said there was no Plan B. There was only one plan: That Cuba would come and that all efforts should be focused on obtaining approval."


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