President Donald Trump is hoping he can use Major League Baseball's relationship with Cuba to convince Cuba to stop supporting Venezuela's socialist government, according to NPR.
The president reportedly restarted negotiations with MLB owners this week, with the topic of discussion being whether or not the administration will allow Cuban baseball players to join MLB teams without having to defect.
Major League Baseball struck an agreement late last year with the Cuban Baseball Federation that would've allowed Cuban players to join pro teams in the United States and Canada, as long as the major league team paid a release fee to the Cuban federation, and as long as the player paid Cuban income tax.
The Trump administration canceled that agreement in April, having opposed it from its origins. The administration expressed an intent to continue restricting Cuba's ability to profit from U.S. businesses. An anonymous administration official told NPR that they believed the agreement was a form of human trafficking by the Cuban government.
Now, seeing a leverage point with Cuba on the issue of Venezuela, Trump is reportedly open to allowing that agreement to go forward—if Major League Baseball will put pressure on Cuba to pull back cooperation with the Venezuelan government.
"The administration will continue to hold the Cuban regime accountable for its direct role in the trafficking of its citizens from the island," a White House official told NPR. "The administration looks forward to finding productive ways to work with MLB to help the people of Venezuela, a country that has a rich history with MLB but has been destabilized by Cuba's interference."
The initial decision to cancel the agreement was technically made by the Treasury department, leading to hope that the president's direct involvement could yield a different result. From NPR:
"The president taking a meeting with the commissioner of MLB to discuss a topic that the administration recently made a ruling shows that the president is open to seriously considering changing the administration ruling that was recently made," said Fernando Cutz, a former acting senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council in the Trump administration. "That shows the president is willing to at least consider overruling whoever made that ultimate decision underneath him."