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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Russia Denounces Guyana's Plot against Venezuela

A plan to train alleged Venezuelan refugees in a British military base in Guyana was disclosed on Thursday by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Dozens of alleged Venezuelan refugees moved to that place, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who noted that they are people who arrived in that place to received training and join 'sabotage and espionage' groups.

She assured that the Brits are completing the construction of that military base on one of the islands on the mouth of the Esequivo River, under the alleged pretext of smuggling weapons and drugs.

Zakharova warned that the final objective is to deploy those forces on Venezuelan territory to destabilize the situation in the South American country and perpetrate terrorist acts.

The region of Esequibo is the core of a dispute between Venezuela and Guyana since 1966, although tensions started in 1899, when Caracas was stripped of 160,000 square kilometers of land by an arbitrary decision that allowed the United Kingdom to give Guyanese authorities that part of the territory.

The Russian Foreign Ministry recently criticized the tightening of the total blockade by the United States against Venezuela, which it described as economic terrorism.

'Those cruel restrictions affect, above all, the most vulnerable sectors of the population', Zakharova noted.

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Venezuela Doesn't Fear the Threats of Imperialism, says Maduro

Venezuela doesn't fear the threats of imperialism and is prepared to resist and win, stated President Nicolás Maduro this Sunday, during an appearance at the World Day of Protest against the United States.

The U.S. government violates all the principles of international law, said the head of state in the capital's Plaza Simón Bolívar.

Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores, signed the document supporting the international campaign 'No More Trump', rejecting the recent unilateral and illegal measures of President Donald Trump.

'We call on the people to fight, to take action and raise banners. Venezuela must be respected,' he said.

He expressed his confidence in the people and affirmed that Venezuelans will not allow themselves to be humiliated by anyone, that they have prepared themselves morally and politically to exercise power for the sole and exclusive benefit of the Venezuelan people.

Referring to his decision to temporarily suspend talks with the opposition, he stressed that he continues to believe in sovereign, political and economic dialogue as the only way to resolve tensions, but on the basis of respect for Venezuelans and their Constitution.

He called for preserving unity and increasing production capacity in order to move forward and overcome the situation the country is facing due to Washington's punitive sanctions, which freeze state assets and threaten sanctions against those who negotiate with Venezuela.

He also instructed national authorities to improve the food protection system and stressed the need to guarantee peace and economic security, as well as the people's income.

He added that the White House uses the economic power of the dollar and U.S. banks to blackmail the world in order to impose world hegemony.

The huge mobilizations that took place throughout the country were the response of the people to the attacks by the United States against the South American nation, which intensified this week after Trump approved the blockade of Venezuelan assets in order to generate a change of regime in the country.

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Cuban president reiterates support to Venezuela

Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Saturday expressed support to Venezuela after the imposition of new U.S. economic sanctions.

"The Venezuelan people's dignity and the strength of the Bolivarian Revolution can't be broken by criminal, imperialist sanctions," Diaz-Canel wrote on his Twitter account.

Two weeks ago, the Cuban president attended the 25th edition of the Sao Paulo Forum held in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, where he also voiced Cuba's support "to the Bolivarian Revolution, to Venezuela's constitutional government and to the civic-military union that underpins that process," and to the efforts to achieve peace.

"Cuba will neither give up nor betray its principles and Venezuela," the Cuban president said at the conclusion of the three-day forum that gathered progressive political parties as well as social and political movements from Latin America and the Caribbean.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed on Monday an executive order to freeze all the Venezuelan state assets in the United States.

Venezuela cut diplomatic ties with the United States in January after Washington recognized far-right opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's "interim president" as he proclaimed.

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US Has Killed 40,000 Venezuela Citizens, Bolivian Minister States

The economic ''strangulation'' measures the United States is currently applying against Venezuela have already killed 40,000 citizens, Minister of the Presidency, Juan Ramon Quintana, stated at the La Paz International Book Fair.

'It cannot be that a powerful country such as the United States deprives the Venezuelan society of something as fundamental as food, and currently also deprives its people of medicines, basic supplies, and has caused the death of more than 40,000 citizens in recent years,' Quintana said.

The minister spoke Wednesday night at the launch of the book 'America Latina en el proyecto de domination de Estados Unidos. Pautas y perspectivas en el siglo XXI' (Latin America in the domination project of the United States. Patterns and perspectives in the 21st century), a compilation of essays edited by the Plurinational Public Management School (EGPP).

During his speech in the Chuquiago Marka fairground's Emma Villazon Hall, the minister explained that the chapter he wrote for the book addresses from different perspectives the changes underway in Latin America in its relationship with Washington.

Quintana, who is also coordinator of the book 'BoliviaLeaks' with documents on US political interference against the country's Process of Change (2006-2010), noted that with the launch of the new volume, the EGPP opens the possibility of establishing an observatory, as a research center endowed with a solid library.

The volume includes texts by researchers Esteban Morales, Loreta Telleria, Luis Suarez Salazar, Jorge Hernandez, Juan Ramon Quintana and Yasmin Barbara Vasquez.

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Cuba Describes US Executive Order against Venezuela as Cruel

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel described on Tuesday as ''extreme cruelty'' against Venezuela the executive order of US President Donald Trump, which extends the sanctions against the country to a total economic blockade.

It is a dispossession, a robbery, an extreme cruelty that we should not allow, the Cuban President tweeted, also reiterating solidarity with his counterpart, Nicolas Maduro, and the Venezuelan people.

Diaz-Canel added on Twitter that the 'cowardly' action against Venezuelan assets responds to Washington's frustration 'at the bravery and resistance of the Bolivarian Revolution.'

Trump signed yesterday an executive order that freezes all assets of the Venezuelan government in the US and prohibits transactions with that Executive unless there are specific exemptions.

The White House confirmed on Tuesday the measure authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to impose sanctions on people supporting the Maduro government, which Washington describes as illegitimate despite being the Venezuelan President being reelected in 2018 with 68% of the vote.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs assured the renewed interventionist actions show that the Trump administration and its allies are committed to the failure of the political dialogue process in Venezuela, which is taking place in Barbados with the accompaniment of the Norwegian authorities.

Meanwhile, President Maduro ratified the call for popular unity to confront the new US escalation.

  • Published in Cuba

Ruben Limardo wins men's individual epee Gold Medal Bout

Venezuela's Rubén Limardo overcame his brother Jesus in the men’s épée final to earn a third consecutive Pan American Games gold here today.

The Venezuelan pairing battle through the early rounds at the Lima Convention Centre on the first of six days of fencing competition.

Rubén, the London 2012 Olympic champion, progressed to the gold medal match by recording a narrow 10-9 win over Cuba’s Yunior Reytor.

The second semi-finals saw Jesus Limardo record an 11-10 victory against Jhon Edison Rodriguez of Colombia.

He would prove no match with Rubén in the gold medal match, as his sibling secured a 15-8 win to clinch gold.

It also marked a repeat of the Pan American Championships event earlier this year, where Rubén had also emerged as the winner.

Rubén has now won the men’s title at three consecutive Pan American Games, having also triumphed at Guadalajara 2011 and Toronto 2015.

He memorably won Venezuela's first Olympic gold since 1968 when he triumphed back at London 2012.

Jesus reflected that it was an honour to face his brother in the final of the Pan American Games.

He added that he hoped their success would bring joy to people in Venezuela.

The country is currently in the midst of an economic and political crisis, which has led to around four million people leaving the nation in recent years.

“I feel very happy to give this victory to Venezuela," he said.

“I am happy that Rubén and I won the gold and silver medals we came to look for.

“I am proud and happy to face my brother, I have faced it twice in a final, both times I have lost and I have the bitter taste, but I am young, I can win later.

“I think that life is not easy, we will always face complicated situations.

“Now that Venezuela is not in a good moment, we can at least give this joy to our people.

“We have the opportunity to give Venezuela a high”.

Lee Kiefer won her third consecutive Pan American Games women's foil title ©Getty Images
Lee Kiefer won her third consecutive Pan American Games women's foil title ©Getty Images

Cuba's Reytor and Colombia's Rodriguez received bronze medals in the competition following their semi-final defeats.

United States' Lee Kiefer would clinch a third consecutive women's foil gold medal at the Games in impressive fashion.

The Olympian beat Brazil's Bia Bulcão 15-3 in the semi-finals, before securing a 15-10 victory over Canada's Jessica Guo in the gold medal match.

Canada's Eleanor Harvey, who had lost 14-12 to her team-mate Guo in the semi-finals, completed the podium places.

In the men's handball competition Argentina booked their place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games by beating Chile in the gold medal match.

Chile were hoping to secure a maiden appearance at an Olympic handball tournament, but saw their hopes ended by Argentina.

A close match ended with Argentina securing a 31-27 win to seal a third straight Olympic appearance.

Brazil beat Mexico 32-20 in the bronze medal match.

Canada’s Eugene Wang and Mo Zhang won the mixed doubles table tennis title with a 4-1 win over Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi and Brune Takahashi

Wang and Zhang triumphed 12-10, 15-13, 6-11, 11-7, 12-10.

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Foro de São Paolo: Venezuela Is Today the First Trench of the Anti-Imperialist Struggle

So declared Cuban President Díaz-Canel in his July 28 speech at the Foro de São Paolo in Caracas. It is not the first time that Cuba, through its leaders and revolutionary press, has made such an affirmation. Furthermore, in a modest and unassuming way, so has Venezuela. No doubt similar declarations will be made in the future. The fate of Venezuela is still being played out, even though the Bolivarian Revolution and its President, Nicolas Maduro, have defeated every single attempt by the U.S. and by Venezuela’s external and internal enemies to overthrow the government.

Some supporters in Caracas of both the Cuban Revolution and the Bolivarian Revolution questioned whether Cuba should also be honoured for standing in that first trench.

The writer of these lines believes that the answer is “yes and no.” Since 1959, Cuba has solidly positioned itself – and likewise been designated by the world anti-imperialist movement – as proudly standing upright in that first trench as far as Latin America is concerned. Moreover, the international left consensus continuously and correctly reminds us that the Cuban Revolution has primarily been holding that banner courageously aloft on its very own.

Even though other important breakthroughs have occurred, nothing compares to the rise of Hugo Chávez and the fledgling Bolivarian Revolution through the December 1998 elections.

And in the wake of this watershed in Latin American history arose the development of regional integration, which would not have been possible without Chávez together with that other Latin American giant, Fidel Castro. Thus, one can say that both Cuba and Venezuela occupied that coveted (but not sought-after) first trench standing on the same footing.

However, as a result of the first coup attempt against the Maduro government on January 23, 2019, everything changed. The ripple effect not only hit Latin America but also, to a large extent, the world.

Never before in decades on this planet have we witnessed such a U.S.-led international, sustained, vicious and coordinated economic, political and diplomatic media disinformation/lying campaign against a government and its leader – in this case, President Maduro – as we have seen over the last six months (and ongoing).

To put this in context by taking definite time frames, one can recall the “Black Spring” media war against Cuba in 2003 over the arrest of mercenaries, the so-called “dissidents.” However, this was nothing compared with Venezuela in 2019. After a relatively short period of time, the controversy over Cuba fizzled out on its own.

As far as personalizing a media war by targeting an individual leader, what comes to mind is the “blitzkrieg” in much of the international media against the persona of Fidel Castro after his passing on November 25, 2016, as the term employed to describe that disinformation in my latest book.

Like starving sharks sensing blood, much of the mainstream media carried out a virtual non-stop, 10-day campaign. It centred around the theme that the “dictator” had passed away and so finally Cuba could come to its senses and liberate itself from socialism, its political system, and make concessions to the U.S. in order to “be deserving of” better relations.

However, it lasted only while the Cuban people laid their leader to rest. It soon became clear that Cuba would remain on the same path it had chosen to take since 1959. The time span was not more than about two weeks. It was, thereafter, business as usual.

These and other examples are relatively minor compared with the current 2019 anti-Maduro campaign.

Cuba defeated the mercenary U.S.-backed military invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 at a time when the Revolution was already solidly in power and did not share any political or economic power with pro-U.S. forces. Close to 60 years after the Bay of Pigs, the U.S. is still licking its wounds. It knows that it cannot – and will not – dare to attempt a military coup in Cuba or invade the island. Whether or not the U.S. likes it, the military option for Cuba is not on the table.

The situation in Venezuela, however, is different. While the civic–military union is solid, a military intervention in Venezuela is still possible – and is always on the U.S. table. For example, during the Foro while meeting with parliamentarians on July 28, one of the Bolivarian Revolution’s main leaders, Diosdado Cabello, said, “It is probable that the U.S. Marines will enter Venezuela; the problem for them, however, is how they are going to leave [alive].”

Even though some of the important Trump allies in the Lima Group do not approve of a military solution, how much weight does this hold in the balance when all these allies fully support regime change?

Let us take one example to draw a distinction between Cuba’s and Venezuela’s situation from the author’s own country. It is still very “fashionable” in Canada at all levels of society and in the mainstream media to oppose the U.S. blockade against Cuba and refrain from open regime change rhetoric. However, the U.S.-led media war against Venezuela is so powerful and all encompassing in Canada that it is “fashionable” in this country to repeat all the U.S. lies and swallow hook, line and sinker the U.S. narrative against Venezuela and especially its leader, Maduro.

Venezuela is thus indeed in the first trench of the anti-imperialist struggle. In the course of a meeting on February 4, 2019 with a small foreign delegation in Caracas, Maduro pointed out to us that Venezuela was not seeking the honour of being the epicentre of the international anti-imperialist battle. However, invoking Vietnam, he drew the historical parallel and stated that Venezuela is indeed up to the challenge.

Yes, Venezuela is in the first trench. However, as Díaz-Canel pointed out, the U.S. is also targeting Cuba and Nicaragua.

Thus, due to its repeatedly stubborn refusal to abandon Venezuela despite U.S. attempts to starve Cuba into submission and take the road of treason, Cuba is indeed, in a manner of speaking, sharing that first trench with Venezuela. Yet, Venezuela ranks first there, up front, not by its own choice, but rather because of a situation forced upon it by the U.S. and its allies. The Bolivarian Revolution holds its head up, courageously peering over the trench and ready to take that first bullet, if need be – but not without a fitting response.

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