MLB bans playing in Venezuela amid Trump order

Major League Baseball has banned all affiliated players from participating in the Venezuela winter league this season, a response intended to comply with President Donald Trump's embargo against the country's Nicolas Maduro-led government.

"MLB has been in contact with the relevant government agencies regarding the Executive Order issued by President Trump on Venezuela," the league said in a statement. "MLB will fully adhere to the policies implemented by our government. With respect to the Venezuela Winter League, MLB will suspend its involvement in that league until it receives direction from the relevant agencies that participation by affiliated players is consistent with the Executive Order."

The potential repercussions of the prohibition, which prevents major league and minor league players from joining the 75-year-old Liga Venezolana de Beísbol Profesional (LVBP), could be significant. Multiple sources told ESPN they feared the ban would warp the heretofore strong bond between MLB and Venezuela and spawn a situation similar to that of Cuba, another embargoed country whose complicated relationship with the league has festered for decades.

Dozens of affiliated players either return home to Venezuela or travel there annually to play winter ball, as many supplement paltry minor league incomes with low- to mid-five-figure sums to play in a 63-game season. The LVBP, whose champion participates with those from the Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Cuban and Panamanian leagues in the annual Caribbean Series, is sponsored by Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), the country's state-run oil company, according to sources.

The murkiness of the LVBP's link to a government-run business spurred MLB to consider the ban and consult with the Major League Baseball Players Association, according to sources. The fear, sources said, is that players agreeing to deals with a government-affiliated entity -- or agents consummating the deals -- would run afoul of the Aug. 5 executive order, which banned any such transactions.

Venezuela, once a bustling economic power in Latin America, has plunged into crisis, with widespread food and medicine shortages, millions of refugees leaving the country and toxic political infighting. The U.S. recognizes Juan Guaidó, the leader of the opposition, as president instead of Maduro, who remains in power.

One consequence of MLB's plan, sources said, could be Maduro retaliating by banning the league from signing amateur players in Venezuela. The country has proved to be a hotbed of talent, with Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras and New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres among the 95 Venezuela-born players who have logged major league time this season.

In recent years, as the economic strife worsened, teams shut down academies in Venezuela and consolidated their Latin American operations in the Dominican Republic. Top Venezuelan prospects have begun following suit, according to sources. Some of the best 12- and 13-year-old players in the country have moved with their families to the Dominican Republic in anticipation of signing with major league teams at age 16, sources said.

While all of the concerns about the executive order could be mollified by an agreement between the United States and Venezuela -- both countries on Thursday acknowledged recent back channel discussions -- MLB's desire to abide by it comes at a moment when the league's international dealings have been under scrutiny.

The Trump administration in April scuttled a deal between MLB and the Cuban government that would have allowed Cuban players to sign directly with the league instead of taking the circuitous and dangerous paths offered by traffickers. The Department of Justice continues a wide-ranging investigation into baseball's Latin American business -- including deals for Cuban defectors -- that sources said have targeted a number of teams, including the Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.

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MLB this week contacted the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the U.S. Treasury department that imposes economic sanctions, seeking clarity on the executive order, according to a source. Teams expect to continue to sign amateur players as long as Venezuela does not prohibit it, believing that doing so would not breach the executive order because individual teenage players are not under the Venezuelan government's purview.

Whether that legal argument holds up is unclear and part of the complications caused by the embargo. While a number of major league and minor league players planned to compete in the LVBP, contracts are not typically agreed upon until September and October. With no affiliated players allowed, Luis Amaro, the general manager for the Aguilas del Zulia, said he expected Venezuela natives playing in the Mexican and Italian leagues this summer to fill out the rosters.

Until then, MLB and the MLBPA can only wait to see the consequences of the potential action. The lockdown of the Venezuelan talent pool, while not crippling, would significantly hinder the talent base in the minor leagues, where hundreds of Venezuelans play. The lack of a winter option for young players in Venezuela concerned one agent, who said LVBP helps keep players out of trouble when they return home. Another agent, who expected multiple clients to make up for below-minimum-wage minor league salaries by playing in Venezuela, said he hopes clients still can get jobs in the Dominican, Mexican or Puerto Rican leagues.

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Arreaza: Venezuela Will Send Oil to Cuba Despite U.S. Sanctions

The U.S. is using new tools to strengthen their financial blockade on Cuba and Venezuela in attempt to sink their economies and replace their legitimate governments. 

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said Monday that his country will continue to send oil to Cuba despite the U.S. sanctions on vessels transporting oil to the Latin American island.

RELATED: Punched-Out: US Cancels Deal Between MLB and Cuban Baseball Federation

"Venezuela will always fulfill its commitments with the brotherly people of Cuba," Arreaza pledged and commented that "when capitalism’s conventional power attacks you - you have to know how to respond by unconventional means, while always respecting international law. We are experts." 

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 34 vessels owned by Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA); this means that all shipments and transactions carried out by them will be banned.

These absurd measures taken against the Venezuelan oil tankers also affect the Liberia-based Ballito Shipping Co. and the Greece-based ProPer In Management Co.

By imposing this arbitrary action, the U.S. government seeks to destabilize the Venezuelan government by creating a liquidity crisis, a goal which became evident when Vice President Mike Pence April 5 said that “the U.S. will continue to exert all diplomatic and economic pressure” against President Maduro’s administration.

Recordamos a los amigos que la lucha de los pueblos de Cuba y Venezuela, no es solo en defensa de sus respectivas revoluciones sino en defensa de la humanidad. No dejemos que una vez mas el imperialismo agreda a un pueblo de la región.

"We remind our friends that the struggle of the peoples of Cuba and Venezuela is not only in defense of their revolutions but in defense of humanity. Let's not allow imperialism once again assault the people of the region."

This U.S. sanctions are also related to the opposition politician Juan Guaido’s attempt to block Venezuelan oil shipments to Cuba as he believes that they are being used to finance Cuban intelligence’s work.

The U.S. Treasury Department Secretary Steven Mnuchin justified the new sanctions on the grounds that Cuba has been a strong supporter of Venezuela.

“Treasury is taking action against vessels and entities transporting oil, providing a lifeline to keep the illegitimate Maduro regime afloat,” Mnuchin said and added that the U.S. remains committed to holding the Cuban revolution “accountable for its direct involvement” in Venezuela.

After the U.S. announcement, the Venezuelan government said that the appropriate legal measures will be taken to respond to such unacceptable measures, which were also condemned by Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

The shipment of oil from to is backed by agreements between both countries for years, "and of course it is positive for Venezuelans and Cubans"

Cuba and Venezuela have been close political and economic allies since 2000. The South American country became the island's main oil provider through an agreement which grants preferential oil prices in exchange for Cuban medical and educational services.

The most recent fuel shipment to Cuba left Venezuela on April 4, carrying liquefied petroleum gas. Another three vessels are waiting off Venezuela to load with shipments destined for Cuba.

Due to the U.S. economic war on Venezuela, however, there has been a decline in Bolivarian oil shipments to Cuba, a country which has been looking for for alternative suppliers, among which are Russia and Algeria.

  • Published in Cuba

Maduro orders European HQ of Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA to be moved to Moscow

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the European headquarters of state oil company PDVSA be relocated to Russia, Venezuela’s Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has said.

“President Maduro ordered to close the Lisbon office of PDVSA and move it to Moscow,” Rodriguez said on Friday at the joint news conference with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, during her visit to the Russian capital.

The decision comes as Venezuela expands energy cooperation with Russia’s oil and gas giants Gazprom and Rosneft, according to the official.

“It’s the perfect time, as we are reshaping our relations,” said Rodriguez.

Also on rt.com US imports of ‘sanctioned’ Venezuelan oil surge fivefold...

Over recent months, there has been a battle over Venezuela’s oil industry, which contributes greatly to the country’s budget. The United States has sanctioned PDVSA in an attempt to cut off funds to the Maduro-led government while giving support to the opposition led by Juan Guaido. President Maduro broke diplomatic ties with the US after President Trump recognized Guaido as interim president.

In late January, the US froze $7 billion of assets belonging to PDVSA and its US subsidiary Citgo. Guaido pledged to appoint an alternative board of directors for both PDVSA itself and Citgo as well.

According to Vice President Rodriguez, Venezuela is planning to broaden the country’s trading opportunities.

We will purchase food and medicines necessary for our people from Russia,” she said, quoting the words of the Venezuelan President.

Also on rt.com US sanctions help India become No.1 buyer of Venezuelan crude...

Caracas will continue attracting investments into the Venezuelan economy with the help of the Russian government, said Rodriguez, stressing that Russia is an important strategic partner.

Russia and Venezuela have agreed to increase trade and investment in industries and finance as part of agreements signed in December during President Maduro’s visit to Moscow, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Russia will further help the Venezuelan government to solve social and economic problems, which includes lending support via legitimate humanitarian aid,” added Lavrov.

  • Published in World

US imports of ‘sanctioned’ Venezuelan oil surge fivefold

Purchases of Venezuelan crude by US energy companies saw a five-fold weekly growth as of the middle of February, nearly reaching their pre-sanctions level, the latest data published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows.

According to the Paris-based agency, imports of crude from Venezuela to the US amounted to 558,000 barrels per day during the week through February 15, compared to 117,000 barrels per day in the previous week. As of January 25, just days before US sanctions came into effect, American firms reportedly imported 587,000 barrels per day.

Washington imposed economic penalties against Venezuela’s state oil giant PDVSA, freezing $7 billion of the company’s assets. The sanctions also block payments to PDVSA accounts with buyers of Venezuela’s oil directed to deposit all transactions in a separate account, to which the company doesn’t have access.

The US Treasury issued temporary permits for buying Venezuelan crude to foreign companies until the current deals are expired, and the firms find new suppliers with the deadline set by the White House to expire on April 28.

The latest sanctions also prohibit US sales of naphtha to the Bolivarian Republic. Naphtha is a mixture, produced from natural gas condensates or petroleum distillates, which is used to dilute thick, heavy crude to make it flow.

The US penalties forced Caracas to purchase naphtha, as well as petrol and diesel, from Russian state oil corporation Rosneft, Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, as well as Dutch commodity traders Vitol and Trafigura, according to ship-tracking data seen by Reuters.

Washington and Caracas have been involved in a longstanding diplomatic spat for years. In January, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a break of diplomatic relations with the US after President Trump recognized the leader of Venezuela's National Assembly Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president.

  • Published in World

Following New US Sanctions, Venezuela Says Pay For Oil Before Leaving Port

Previously, PDVSA contracts with its customers allowed oil payments to be made 30, 60 or 90 days after delivery.

President of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), Manuel Quevedo, said Tuesday that the Venezuelan state-owned company will modify its operations to combat new U.S. sanctions, which will affect its previous international contracts.

RELATED: US Threatens to Funnel Venezuelan Oil Revenues to Guaido

"Any ship leaving a Venezuelan port, carrying our people's oil, must pay for the oil before leaving the port," Quevedo said and added that "we will not allow them to take our oil and steal our resources."

The measure establishes a new way of dealing with international buyers. Previously, PDVSA contracts with customers allowed for oil payments to be made 30, 60 or even 90 days after delivery.

The soon-to-be-implemented rules come after U.S. President Donald Trump's administration announced sanctions, Monday, against PDVSA and its U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, which threatens to affect assets valued at some US$7 billion.

By establishing this sanction and oppressing the Venezuelan economy, the United States seeks to force the Bolivarian Republic's President Nicolas Maduro to transfer power to the U.S.-backed self-declared leader Juan Guaido, who is the head of parliament.

Quevedo also stated that the PDVSA will publish additional measures so that buyers can note "contractual variations."

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry described US sanctions against Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA as a blatant unlawful intervention: The US pursuing the line on further undisguised interference in internal affairs of

 

"PDVSA can not fulfill under [the previous] contractual conditions some commitments that we have in the U.S. market. We are evaluating all the options to impact, as little as possible, the world's oil market," the PDVSA chief added.

According to experts, the U.S. sanctions against PDVSA is a direct attack on the cash flow of Venezuela, a country which extracts almost 96% of its income from international oil sales. In addition, the U.S. restrictions will adversely affect the supply of basic goods and fuels.

In Venezuela, which has the world's largest proved reserves of crude oil, PDVSA produced an average of 1,137 million barrels per day in Nov. 2018, according to OPEC data.

  • Published in World

US gives opposition leader Guaido control over some Venezuelan assets

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has authorized Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared interim president, Juan Guaido, to take control of US-held assets belonging to the country’s government.

The certification, issued on Tuesday, applies to certain Venezuelan government and Central Bank property held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other US insured banks.

"This certification will help Venezuela’s legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.

: gives opposition leader control over some /n assets. Now this is a huge development in the domain of world politics, esp its "interference" aspect: strip assets from official gov using your influence to empower whoever else you like.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido swore himself in as Venezuela’s interim president last Wednesday and was recognized as the country’s legitimate leader by the United States shortly afterwards. President Nicolas Maduro denounced Guaido’s claim as a “vile,” Washington-sponsored coup attempt, and severed diplomatic relations with the US in response.

Much of the Western world followed suit in recognizing Guaido and isolating Maduro. The Bank of England reportedly blocked Maduro from withdrawing $1.2 billion worth of gold stored in the UK late last week, and Secretary Pompeo announced that $20 million in humanitarian aid for Venezuela will be distributed through Guaido.

Also on rt.com ‘US not just behind Venezuelan coup, it’s leading it’ – Foreign Minister to RT...

US sanctions have effectively barred Maduro’s government from borrowing on international markets and targeted anyone involved in gold sales from Venezuela. Venezuela’s gold reserves are estimated at more than $8 billion, while the value of its assets in American banks is unclear.

The Trump administration further ratcheted up its pressure campaign on Maduro by announcing sanctions against Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA on Monday. The US Treasury Department seized $7 billion in PDVSA assets, and the sanctions will affect $11 billion worth of oil exports over the coming year.

Also on rt.com ‘Good for business’: Trump adviser Bolton admits US interest in Venezuela’s ‘oil capabilities’...

Venezuelan petroleum company Citgo will continue operating in the US, but its profits will go into a blocked account, only accessible to Guaido’s government, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin explained.

Mnuchin added that sanctions will only be lifted upon the “expeditious transfer of control to the interim president, or the subsequently democratically elected interim government.”

Maduro has denounced the sanctions as an attempt to “steal” Citgo from Venezuela, and said that PDVSA will take legal action.

  • Published in World

Officials Arrested for Oil Sabotage in Venezuela

Caracas, Jun 27 (Prensa Latina) Attorney General, Tarek William Saab, announced today the arrest of 11 officials of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), linked to alleged sabotage actions that caused losses of 14 million USD to the country.

At a press conference broadcast by Venezolana de Television, the head of the Public Prosecutor's Office informed that the detainees were working at the Jose Antonio Anzoategui Crude Oil Storage and Shipping Terminal, in the northeastern region of the country, and affected the operation of joint ventures of the Orinoco Oil Belt.

Saab explained that on June 14, those responsible for the Operational Coordination of the Belt and the Improvement Division incurred the crime of negligence in improperly planning the discharge and distribution of naphtha (a mixture of hydrocarbons).

The criminal action led to the cessation of supply of the additive to two companies operating in the Carabobo state division, and for that reason, they stopped producing 175,000 barrels of oil, with an economic damage amounting to 11.3 million USD.

Also, between June 16 and 17, serious mistakes were made in the loading of two vessels, Aries Sun and Nerissa, which had to move 400,000 barrels of Zuata 300 crude and 1.8 million barrels of Merey crude, respectively, stated the Attorney General.

  • Published in World

Venezuela Rejects ‘Hostile’ US Sanctions, Vows Response

The new sanctions target Venezuela's financial sector and state-run oil company.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza has responded to new U.S. sanctions against the South American country, vowing to carefully study its implications and respond swiftly.

RELATED: ‘Libya, Iraq Are Lessons’: Antigua Slams US Threats Against Venezuela

On Friday, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump imposed the new round of sanctions on Venezuela, targeting its financial sector.

The sanctions, according to Bloomberg, ban trades of Venezuelan debt and prevents the country's state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, from selling new bonds to U.S. citizens or financial groups. Trades of existing bonds commissioned by Caracas will also be barred.

Arreaza described the sanctions as "one of the worst aggressions against Venezuela in recent years."

"These types of sanctions show that the U.S. wants to rule over the continent. We will never accept this," Arreaza said.

"We are studying all measures that we can take in response to these sanctions."

The White House announced the measure in a press statement.

“In an effort to preserve itself, the Maduro dictatorship rewards and enriches corrupt officials in the government’s security apparatus by burdening future generations of Venezuelans with massively expensive debts,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

“These measures are carefully calibrated to deny the Maduro dictatorship a critical source of financing to maintain its illegitimate rule, protect the United States financial system from complicity in Venezuela’s corruption and in the impoverishment of the Venezuelan people, and allow for humanitarian assistance.”

The new round of sanctions include a 30-day transitional period, allowing certain debt trades to continue, the Miami Herald reported. They also include exemptions for transactions involving Citgo, the PDVSA's U.S. affiliate.

RELATED: Venezuela’s Maduro Speaks on Chavez, Trump and Opposition

Trump is reported to have signed an executive order approving the sanctions on Thursday.

"We don't agree with anything (President Nicolas) Maduro is doing," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a press conference Friday.

"We wanted to rely on the OAS (Organization of American States), but they weren't able to do anything. We tried an emergency meeting with the Security Council, but they didn't think it had anything to do with peace and security. Now we've placed sanctions and we'll see if there's anything else we can do."

Echoing Haley, U.S. National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster touted Trump's decision to "strongly punish the Venezuela regime."

"The U.S. won’t allow an illegitimate dictatorship to take hold in the hemisphere," McMaster said Friday.

"The Maduro dictatorship will not be able to accumulate debt that benefits corrupt insiders."

McMaster added that although no military options are being explored in the "near future," Washington is considering a "wide range of options" against Venezuela.

The decision comes days after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence promised to ramp up pressure on Venezuela in the wake of its July 30 National Constituent Assembly, ANC, election.

Pence met with several opposition leaders in Miami, capping off his tour of Latin America last week where he sought support against Maduro's govenrment. The meeting with 15 emigre political figures took place at a Catholic Church in Doral, well known as an enclave for Venezuelans opposed to the administrations of late President Hugo Chavez and Maduro.

RELATED: Maduro Calls on Trump to 'Stop Aggression Towards Venezuela'

It also comes weeks after Trump issued military threats against Venezuela.

“We have many options for Venezuela and by the way, I’m not going to rule out a military option,” Trump told reporters earlier this month in apparently impromptu remarks.

“A military operation and military option is certainly something that we could pursue.”

Last month, the United States imposed sanctions on 13 Venezuelan officials ahead of the ANC.

“As President Trump has made clear, the United States will not ignore the Maduro regime’s ongoing efforts to undermine democracy, freedom, and the rule of law,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a press release.

Among those sanctioned on Wednesday were National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena; Elias Jose Jaua Milano, the head of the Presidential Commission for the National Constituent Assembly; Tarek William Saab Halabi, Venezuela’s Ombudsman; Maria Iris Varela Rangel, member of Venezuela’s Presidential Commission for the National Constituent Assembly; and Nestor Luis Reverol Torres, Venezuela’s Minister of Interior, Justice, and Peace.

  • Published in World
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