Major League Baseball has reached an agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation that will allow citizens from the country to play in the US and return home.
The accord, which will allow the Cuban government to claim a fee from the MLB team that signs the player, means Cuban players will no longer be forced to defect to play in the North American league after having been barred from returning to their home country.
Instead, the players will be able to retain their Cuban residency and will still be allowed to play in Cuba’s national league.
Cuban Baseball Federation president Higinio Velez, who described “a historic day”, said that the money raised would help to build baseball infrastructure in Cuba.
For years, Cuban players took risky journeys to arrive in the US, often using people smugglers.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred added: “For years, Major League Baseball has been seeking to end the trafficking of baseball players from Cuba by criminal organisations by creating a safe and legal alternative for those players to sign with major league clubs.
“We believe that this agreement accomplishes that objective and will allow the next generation of Cuban players to pursue their dream without enduring many of the hardships experienced by current and former Cuban players who have played Major League Baseball.”
However, others have criticised the agreement by claiming that it allows the Cuban Baseball Federation to seize a degree of control from the players themselves, when it comes to negotiations.
The agreement marks a further thawing in the geopolitical relationship between the US and Cuba following progress under former president Barack Obama, who ushered in new rules to allow US companies to hire Cuban nationals.