Friday, March 24, 2006

Baseball money becomes US Cuba political football

Baseball money becomes US-Cuba political football
Fri Mar 24, 2006 1:43 PM ET

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's prize money from the first World Baseball
Classic has become a political football in President Fidel Castro's
4-decade-old sparing match with the United States.

Castro said he wanted to donate the money to victims of Hurricane
Katrina but U.S. officials say Cuba isn't getting any prize money.

Cuba finished second in the 16-nation competition and the runner-up was
entitled to 7 percent of the tournament's profits. But under the 1962
U.S. trade embargo, Havana had to forfeit its cut to get U.S. approval
to play.

Castro, welcoming Cuba's players home as champions despite their 10-6
loss to Japan in Monday's final in San Diego, said on Tuesday the Cuban
prize money would be donated to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The Bush administration, however, is not prepared to allow such altruism
by the Cuban leader.

A Major League Baseball official said the deal that allowed Cuba to play
in the tournament, which was reached in February with the U.S. State
Department and agreed to by Cuba, made it "crystal clear" that Havana
would not receive any share of the profits, even for charity.

"Cuba doesn't have a cut of the proceeds of the tournament, and there is
nothing for Cuba to donate," MLB spokesman Patrick Courtney said by
telephone from New York.

If there are any unassigned net revenues, the MLB would consider a
donation to an as-yet-undetermined charitable or humanitarian cause, he

Cuba denounced "foul play" in a front-page editorial on Friday in the
ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma.

There may not be any cash left over to distribute to the WBC winners
because the 17-day, 39-game tournament played at seven venues in Asia
and the United States cost so much, an estimated $50 million.

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