Cuba offers to donate Classic money to Katrina aid

Updated: December 23, 2005, 5:06 PM ET
Associated Press

HAVANA -- Hours after U.S. baseball officials reapplied for a permit that would allow Cuba to join next year's inaugural World Baseball Classic, the island's communist government said Thursday night it would donate any money received at the tournament to hurricane victims.

Officials from Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association reapplied Thursday to the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, seeking permission for Cuba to play in the 16-team tournament, scheduled for March 3-20.

The permit is required because of U.S. laws and regulations governing certain transactions with Cuba, and the Bush administration last week denied the first request, seemingly because Cubans would have received money.

"Although we have never competed for money, in order to offer options the Cuban Baseball Federation would be willing for the money associated with participation in the classic to go to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans," a statement read on Cuban government television said.

Fidel Castro said Friday that the Bush administration was wrong to prohibit Cuba from sending a team to the World Baseball Classic.

"He is very much a fool," the Cuban president said of Bush. "He doesn't know who the Cuban baseball players are, or that they are Olympic and world champions. If he knew, he would know something about this country's government."

Castro mentioned the ongoing dispute during the second day of regular sessions of the island's National Assembly.

Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney said a new application was submitted Thursday. The commissioner's office and the union had said they planned to address government concerns and ensure that no money would go from U.S. entities to the Cubans.

"OFAC turns around all license requests as quickly as they are able to," Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "We don't comment on individual license requests."

Antonio Munoz, a businessman who agreed to pay millions of dollars to bring the games to the U.S. Caribbean territory, was optimistic the decision would be overturned.

"All efforts are being made to get Cuba to come and participate and I think we will succeed," Munoz told The Associated Press by telephone from New York.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press