“This is the time for Cuba to open up” in Baseball

Juan Francisco Puello, presidente de la Confederación de Béisbol Profesional del Caribe
Juan Francisco Puello, president of the Caribbean Confederation of Professional Baseball

The Dominican Juan Francisco Puello, president of the Caribbean Confederation of Professional Baseball, is currently visiting Cuba and attended the sixth game of the finals of the National Baseball Series. At the conclusion of the game at the stadium in Ciego de Ávila, the representative of the regional organization answered questions from the press.

Puello acknowledged that having witnessed the game between the local team and the team from the Isla de la Juventud was “an enlightening and rewarding experience.” At his side were Higinio Velez, president of the Cuban Baseball Federation, and Heriberto Suárez, another senior official of the State Institute of Sports.

All the questions were directed to the visitor, who began by responding to the possibility of recruiting Cubans in the leagues that make up the Caribbean Confederation. Puello said that this issue was one of the items on his agenda during his current trip to Cuba. “It is important to note that (…) until we have a specific definition with the Major Leagues and OFAC [both in the US], that we can have Cuba as a full member of the Confederation, it will not be possible,” the Dominican said with respect to contracts.

However, he added that the arrival of players from the island to the winter leagues in Venezuela or Mexico, “Is at hand, because we have been talking to lawyers in the major leagues who are working on that.” Next week, Puello announced, there will probably already be a definition of that in particular, “and we will communicate it to Cuba.”

He also confessed that “some organizations have approached the Cuban authorities informally” but the impediment would come from the US authorities, both Major League Baseball and the government of that country. “All the leagues [of the countries of the Confederation] have shown interest” in Cuban athletes. “The fact that they are engaged (…) is going to reduce the extreme fatigue,” a condition that hinders the participation of players committed to the major leagues in regional tournaments.

The Confederation official believes that at least until 2020 there will not be a Caribbean Series held here, because for this to happen the Island should be a full member of the regional sports organization. Meanwhile, the country is expected to continue to attend the annual competition, the latest of which was won by a team with the name of Vegueros of Pinar del Río.

“To invite Cuba is a firm decision,” said Puello, who considers it “disproportionate” not to pay the Cuba players the awards they won for their performance in Caribbean Series. And he judges that this is a “problem is more political than sport-related, (…) it must end.”

“This is the time for Cuba to open up,” said Puello, who was visiting the country for the first time since 1999, but, he said, “That was not the time for opening Cuba” he said. The official is currently working on including the Cuban Baseball Federation, controlled by the government and still officially represented as an “amateur” sport, in the Caribbean Confederation of Professional Baseball.

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