Friday, December 26, 2014

Normalization of Relations with Cuba Could Facilitate Immigration of Cuban Players

President Obama recently announced a complete overhaul of the country's long-standing, virtual sequester of Cuba.  This has been unfortunate for many reasons, including the fact that many of the world's top boxers, volleyball players and baseball players hail from the island nation.  For instance, defecting Cuban baseball players Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu and Rusney Castillo have all signed on for successful multi-million dollar contracts with MLB teams.

Unfortunately, because of travel restrictions on Cuban players, many who find their way to the U.S. are forced to utilize unscrupulous and often dangerous human smugglers to facilitate their transfer.
The uncomfortable truth is that many Cuban baseball players who defect to the U.S. must endure extreme danger in order to do so and often rely on human trafficking rings to smuggle them off the island.  As part of President Obama's announced policy change, the U.S. will reportedly work with the Cuban government on human trafficking issues. In the short term this could make it more difficult for Cuban players to defect.
Over the long-term, however, increasing numbers of Cuban players could make their way to compete for U.S. teams.  That would require elimination of trade restrictions between the two countries.  The United States has previously relaxed trade restrictions with Iran on a one-time basis, to allow FIBA Asia star Hamed Haddadi to play for the Memphis Grizzlies.  Presumably the recent shift in American foreign policy towards Cuba could facilitate similar relaxations with respect to Cuban players.

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