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US Treasury to MLB: Don't Play Cuba

The World Baseball Classic has generated a little hot stove talk at home, and will turn at least a few heads abroad when it is played in March. But not in Cuba, if the US government has its way:

[T]he United States Treasury Department told Major League Baseball on Tuesday that Cuba would not be permitted to play in the inaugural World Baseball Classic next year.

...Molly Millerwise, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, would not confirm or deny its action against Cuba, but she repeated that the embargo "prohibits entering into contracts in which Cuba or Cuban nationals have an interest."

Even if baseball officials funneled the money toward humanitarian causes instead of to Cuba, the Treasury Department could determine that Cubans would benefit from being in the tournament and could ban the nation's involvement.

Millerwise said in an e-mail message that any "activities or contracts that could result in financial flows" to Fidel Castro and his regime "would effectively work against the objective of the sanctions and be inconsistent with current U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba."

Trade sanctions are awful policy instruments. Is it not clear that isolating rogue regimes like Cuba and North Korea simply perpetuates them? The policy starves the people, not the rogue.

The story in the NY Times discusses both the current situation and the hurdles Peter Angelos had to clear several years ago so his Orioles could play a home-and-home with the Cuban team. He'll try again, but with Bud Selig being silent on the issue, one wonders what's up at MLB headquarters.

I've slammed Angelos before, but I'm on his team on this one.

Update: As noted by JJ in the comments, there is a useful followup story by Ronald Blum, the AP baseball writer, on the fallout of a ban on Olympic politics. One can sense how the ban emerged from this: "Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, said he had spoken with the Treasury Department urging that the permit be denied." Ugh. Diaz-Balart may just be grandstanding, but regardless, his comments look foolish throughout the piece. By comparison, the observations of sports notables (Dick Pound of the IOC, Bob Contigula of US Soccer, and Sepp Blatter of FIFA) appear classy and thoughtful. Weird - I thought congress was the province of eloquence and enlightenment, and sport the habitat of brutes and hooligans.

More: As noted in this article in today's NY Times, Cuban players participate regularly in the US during the Olympics, and most recently in soccer, when they played in Seattle and Boston in the Concacaf Gold Cup. The nominal reason for banning Cuba from the WBC is that they could earn income from the event.

Oh. As if teams competing in Internationally sanctioned tournaments like the World Cup don't get checks. Riiight. I suppose this is just another example where special interests drive a policy which, absent the politics, is objectively insane.