MLB bans players from Venezuelan winter league amid US sanctions

Major League Baseball will prohibit its player from participating in the  Venezuelan Professional Baseball League this winter in order to comply with the Trump administration’s economic embargo against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s regime, MLB confirmed on Thursday.

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The Venezuelan winter circuit is a popular destination for major league players looking to hone their skills during  MLB's traditional offseason. The newly-imposed ban applies to both major league and minor league players.

“MLB has been in contact with the relevant government agencies regarding the Executive Order issued by President Trump on Venezuela,” an MLB spokesman said in a statement. “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.”

President Trump has imposed sweeping sanctions on Maduro’s regime, barring U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with top Venezuelan officials. Maduro’s government has faced allegations of human rights abuses, crackdowns on political rivals election interference amid crippling economic conditions that have led to widespread food shortages.

The Venezuelan league is sponsored by PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-run oil company, which has been blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report the policy.

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MLB rosters featured a total of 68 Venezuela-born players as of opening day this season, including Houston Astros star Jose Altuve and New York Yankees star Gleyber Torres. The ban won’t prevent Venezuelan players from returning to the country during the offseason.