Major League Baseball is cutting ties with the Venezuelan Winter League — at least for now.
The Venezuelan league won’t be an option for U.S. major leaguers and minor leaguers in the coming offseason. The MLB cited the Trump administration’s recent policies regarding Venezuela.
The league said in a statement to Fox News: “MLB has been in contact with the relevant government agencies regarding the Executive Order issued by President Trump on Venezuela. MLB will fully adhere to the policies implemented by our government. With respect to the Venezuelan 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.”
Wilmer Reina, a statistical analyst with Las Aguilas de Zulia, told The Wall Street Journal the ban would have a “brutal impact on the league and the quality of the game.”
“Many of the players in the minor leagues need the money that they make in Venezuela, and they need to play to develop themselves and to arrive in optimal condition to spring training,” he said.
And fans are not happy either. “The sanctions are not going to topple the government. It’s just we the people that suffer,” said José Martinez, a 39-year-old accountant who has been a lifetime fan of the Leones de Caracas, the Journal reported. “Every kid here dreams of reaching the major leagues. A prohibition on Venezuela means we’re finished.”
MLB’s 30 teams featured 68 Venezuelan players on their opening-day rosters this season, the news outlet reported; more than 400 Venezuelans have played in MLB, more than any foreign country besides the Dominican Republic.
The ban has been a long time coming, as The Journal reported that MLB’s teams have shut down their academies in Venezuela and rarely have sent scouts there recently.
The U.N. estimated at least 4 million Venezuelans have left their country because of hyperinflation and severe shortages of food and medicine.
Trump and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro both confirmed this week that there have been “secret” discussions between the two nations for months now even as the U.S. ramped up economic sanctions against the socialist regime.
Maduro said Tuesday that talks had long been underway between high officials in his government and the U.S. administration, while Trump said his government is talking to “various representatives” of the Venezuelan government.
Maduro said he’s prepared to meet with Trump to normalize relations between the two countries, though he made the same offer before.
The U.S. has stated that it no longer sees Maduro as a legitimate ruler of the country and instead endorsed opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the rightful leader of the country. Still. despite the support from Western countries, Maduro has continued to hold power.
Fox Business Network’s Blake Burman contributed to this report.
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