Castro: Bush a 'Fool' to Keep Cuba Out of Baseball Tourney

Fidel Castro said Friday that the Bush administration was wrong to prohibit Cuba from sending a team to next year's 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.

The U.S. Treasury Department last week rejected the application for Cuba to play in the 16-team tournament scheduled for March 3-20, evidently because of concerns that Castro's government could enjoy financial gain by participating.

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Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, which are organizing the tournament, reapplied Thursday to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. OFAC's permission is required under U.S. laws and regulations governing transactions with Cuba, which has been under an American trade and financial embargo for more than four decades.

In an attempt to eliminate a major concern of the U.S. government, the Cuban Baseball Federation announced Thursday night that any money gained by the national team would be donated to Hurricane Katrina victims.

Cuban baseball "would be willing for the money associated with participation in the classic to go to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans," said the statement read on state television by baseball federation president Carlos Rodriguez.

Cuba is scheduled to play first-round games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and would remain in San Juan if it advances to the second round.

Antonio Munoz, a businessman who agreed to pay millions of dollars to bring the games to Puerto Rico, thinks the Treasury Department will reverse its decision.

"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.