Cuba willing to negotiate with MLB hiring of players

Cuban baseball authorities on Wednesday said they’re willing to negotiate with Major League Baseball (MLB) the hiring of players from the Island after Washington announced new measures to ease trade and travel restrictions and just a few days before president Barack Obama’s visit to this Caribbean nation.

At a press conference, Higinio Velez, president of the Cuban Baseball Federation, said the new actions taken by the White House “open the door” to future negotiations with MLB and can also help bilateral relations on the political aspect.

Soundbite (Spanish): Higinio Velez, president of the Cuban Baseball Federation
“This is something new that will start and it’s very good this opening is going to happen that opening. What we want is for our players to play in Major League Baseball, just like anywhere in the world to without losing their nationality and establishing residency in a third country to play in their leagues. We see this very well and it seems that this process is about to begin”

Next March 22, the Tampa Bay Rays of MLB will play the Cuban national team at an exhibition game in Havana’s Latinoamericano Stadium where Obama is expected to throw out the first pitch.

The 42,000 seat stadium has undergone a capital renovation of almost 400,000 U.S. dollars for this game which will mark the second time an MLB team has played in Havana after 1959.

U.S. regulations up to today demanded Cuban born players to acquire residence in a third country to file for free agency or qualify as international players in MLB.

Soundbite (Spanish): Higinio Velez, president of the Cuban Baseball Federation
“We have to wait because these restrictions are subject to laws. Hopefully we have the possibility to talk about the hiring of player but also to exchange on the technological and operations field. We want all this to start as soon as possible”

The new rules will increase ability of Cubans in the United States to earn stipends and salaries beyond living expenses, including professional athletes, musicians, and scientists, among others.

Obama will visit Cuba on March 20-22 as part of the rapprochement that he and President Raul Castro announced in December 2014.

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