By LUIS R. VARELA, Associated Press Writer Thu Dec 22, 6:50 PM ET
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Baseball officials reapplied Thursday for a permit that would allow Cuba to join next year's inaugural World Baseball Classic as Puerto Rican athletic officials said San Juan should withdraw as a host city if the Cubans aren't allowed to participate.
In Miami, a congressman who opposes
Fidel Castro's communist government met with several major league players, hoping to form a team of Cuban defectors that could play in the 16-team tournament.
Treasury Department last week denied a permit request from Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The permit is required because of U.S. laws and regulations governing certain transactions with Cuba.
Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney said a new application was submitted Thursday to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. The commissioner's office and the union had said they planned to address government concerns and ensure that no money would go from U.S. entities to the Cubans.
"OFAC turns around all license requests as quickly as they are able to," Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "We don't comment on individual license requests."
Israel Roldan, president of the Baseball Federation of Puerto Rico, and Hector Cardona, president of the U.S. island territory's Olympic Committee, opposed the decision by the Treasury Department.
"What we are saying is that we should renounce our position as host if Cuba is not permitted to compete," Roldan said.
Roldan sent a letter on Wednesday to International Baseball Federation president Aldo Notari saying the island would decline to be a venue because of the U.S. government's decision.
"We have not heard that directly from the federation," Courtney said.
Antonio Munoz, a businessman who agreed to pay millions of dollars to bring the games to Puerto Rico, would not comment on Roldan's announcement, but said he was not part of the decision.
Notari said he sympathized with Roldan's view but said it was up to Major League Baseball to move the games out of Puerto Rico, which is scheduled to host games during the first and second rounds.
"I won't enter into a problem with the national committee," Notari said. "The position of Roldan is very good and very clear."
Cardona said he was talking to other Latin American athletic officials to enlist their support in persuading the U.S. government to change its position.
Cuba is set to play Puerto Rico, Panama and the Netherlands in Puerto Rico in the first round of the tournament. Each of the 16 teams in the classic are to receive 1 percent of the earnings and the champion is due up to 5 percent, according to Roldan.
In Miami, former Boston bullpen coach Euclides Rojas spoke at an announcement by a group that included Osvaldo Fernandez, Eddie Oropesa and Rene Arocha, the first Cuban defector to play in the majors.
"We would like to represent the team of free Cuba," Rojas said.
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (news, bio, voting record), a Florida Republican who was born in Cuba, backed the new group, which hopes to recruit pitchers Jose Contreras of the
Chicago White Sox, Livan Hernandez of the Washington Nationals and Orlando Hernandez of the
"The lineup is ready," Diaz-Balart said.
Courtney said MLB is dealing only with groups recognized by the IBAF.
"The IBAF sanctions this events under Olympic-type rules. We don't independently recognize federations," he said.
Associated Press writers Ronald Blum in New York, Jessica Gresko in Miami and Chris Lehourites in London contributed to this report.