NEW YORK (AP) – Cuba won’t be allowed to send a team to next year’s inaugural World Baseball Classic, the U.S. government told event organizers Wednesday.

The decision by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control was conveyed to Major League Baseball on Wednesday, according to Pat Courtney, a spokesman for the commissioner’s office.

A permit from OFAC is necessary because of U.S. laws governing certain commercial transactions with Fidel Castro’s communist island nation.

Paul Archey, the senior vice president of Major League Baseball International, and Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the Major League Baseball Players Association, issued a joint statement saying the organizers would try to have the decision reversed. The commissioner’s office and the union have jointly organized the 16-team tournament, which runs from March 3-20 in the United States, Puerto Rico and Japan.

“We are very disappointed with the government’s decision to deny the participation of a team from Cuba in the World Baseball Classic,” Archey and Orza said.

“We will continue to work within appropriate channels in an attempt to address the government’s concerns and will not announce a replacement unless and until that effort fails.”

Organizers had said the Cuban team likely would have included only players currently residing in Cuba and not defectors such as Jose Contreras, Orlando Hernandez and Livan Hernandez, who have become major league stars.

In the tournament schedule announced last week, Cuba was to play its three first-round games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, facing Panama on March 7, the Netherlands on March 9 and Puerto Rico the following day.

If the Cubans advanced, they would also have played their second-round games in Puerto Rico.

“It is our policy that we do not confirm, deny or discuss licenses,” Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “Generally speaking, the Cuba embargo prohibits entering into contracts in which Cuba or Cuban nationals have an interest.”

Rep. Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat, said Tuesday that he is circulating letters to be sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary John Snow asking that Cuba be allowed to play.

“Let’s leave the politics out of this,” Serrano said in a statement. “The World Baseball Classic should not be tainted by our grudge against Cuba’s government. Cuba produces some of the finest baseball talent in the world and they deserve to participate.”

At last week’s news conference in Dallas announcing tournament plans, Orza sounded nearly certain about OFAC granting a permit.

“I do not think that is a serious impediment,” Orza said, adding he was “very, very confident that the Cubans will play.”


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