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Major League Baseball rules & US law force Cubans into violent path of human trafficking to become baseball players in USA, says law prof. Alison Peck

Author: Prof. Alison Peck, West Virginia Univ. College of Law, on Intl. Trade Law Prof Blog (USA), Published on: 28 April 2017

Trump, Trade, José Abreu and a Heineken, 27 April 2017

MLB has hidden its greed [regarding Cuban players] behind U.S. policy for years... But the truth about Cuban baseball players’ journeys to MLB stardom has come out, as the truth tends to do sooner or later. The recent trial and conviction of a baseball agent and an athletic trainer for smuggling ballplayers from Cuba has produced testimony sensational for both its glamorous celebrity and its underworld horror... On March 15, a federal jury in Miami convicted two baseball professionals, a players’ agent named Bartolo Hernandez and an athletic trainer named Julio Estrada, of conspiring to smuggle Cuban ballplayers illegally into the United States for private financial gain. The government alleged a scheme of coercing players, falsifying documents, and carrying out illegal border crossings in order to collect large percentages of the contracts that Cuban players eventually signed with MLB clubs... Several MLB players testified at trial, describing a dangerous and expensive path to their baseball careers in the U.S.... In the case against Hernandez and Estrada, the government claimed that the defendants employed agents with a history of violent and coercive human smuggling in order to coerce the ballplayers and ensure that they never met or had the chance to sign with other sports agents. If a defector’s family in Cuba or the U.S. refused to pay the smugglers’ fee, according to the government, smugglers called the family and demanded money as their loved one screamed under torture... The details of the player-smuggling scheme described at trial makes more sense in the context of MLB Official Professional Baseball Rules Book... Although only open trade with Cuba could entirely end the risk currently run by Cuban ballplayers, MLB could remove much of the pressure on Cuban prospects by changing its professional rules.

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