A press release on Sunday from the Confederación de Béisbol Profesional del Caribe [CBPC, Caribbean Professional Baseball Confederation] confirmed that the national champion of the Cuban National Baseball Series will not participate in the 2020 Caribbean Series to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The explanation given was that while the Cuban champion team would have the opportunity to apply for United States travel visas through the Consulate General in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, there would not be enough time to process the visas between the end of the Cuban tournament and the beginning of the Caribbean Series.
Colombia has received an invitation for the champion of its Professional Baseball League to participate in the tournament in Cuba’s place.
The Federación Cubana de Béisbol [FCB, Cuban Baseball Federation] issued its own release and alleged the CPBC had given in to pressure from the United States government to hinder Cuba from fully exercising its membership in the organization. The FCB release also mentioned that the discontinuation of consular services for Cubans at the US Embassy in Havana has forced Cuban athletes to travel outside the country to apply for visas, at increased cost. The FCB claims that in several cases, these visa applications have been denied, gone without response, or the response has not been received on time.
Given that the Trump administration has walked back the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States negotiated under former US president Barack Obama, I believe that the FCB is likely correct that the US government has decided to intervene to prevent Cuban athletes from traveling to US territory.
This also would not be the first instance of US government policies affecting Caribbean winter baseball during the 2019-2020 season. In August, it was announced that MLB would be banning affiliated players (and coaches) from participating in the Liga Venezolana Profesional de Béisbol [LVBP, Venezuelan Professional Baseball League] winter league, which had been sponsored by the Venezuelan government, while it negotiated with the US government on how to handle the latest US sanctions banning US companies from doing business with the Venezuelan government. In response, the LVBP decided to stop accepting Venezuelan government funding, which financially crippled the league.
Cuba’s exclusion from the Caribbean Series is a disappointing development that will reduce the value of the tournament championship for the eventual winner. Cuba is a giant in international baseball and one of the founders of the Caribbean Series tournament. Their participation will be missed.