Baltimore mayor seeks closer ties with Havana; Orioles to play game on Communist island; other events expected

THE BALTIMORE SUN

With Cuba agreeing to an exhibition game between its national team and the Orioles in Havana, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke continues to pitch cultural exchanges between the city and the Communist country.

Proposed events include a chess match, tennis exhibition and Baltimore-to-Havana yacht race. An agreement on the baseball game, which had recently been in doubt, was confirmed by The Sun yesterday. Talks continue about a second game at Camden Yards.

Schmoke's interest in Cuba grew last year when he visited the nation as a guest of the Center for International Policy, a Washington-based advocacy group pushing to end the U.S. embargo.

Baltimore tennis star Pam Shriver has agreed to play in Cuba and the city is trying to work out the final plans for the yacht race. A team of Cuban doctors is considering working with the city health department to view urban programs. Cuban entertainers will likely be invited to perform in the city's summer Artscape fair, city officials said.

"We're taking the position that there are people-to-people events that can be held," said Lee Tawney, a Schmoke assistant who helps coordinate international affairs.

After returning from his Cuba trip a year ago, Schmoke proposed the exhibition game, which has long been desired by the Orioles, who hope to tap into Cuba's rich baseball talent. Although the Clinton administration recently gave the team permission to discuss the game, the talks had been stalled over how profits from the event should be used.

The Clinton administration wants to ensure that game profits do not go to the administration of Cuban President Fidel Castro. Cuban leaders have suggested using the money to help Cuban doctors cleaning up the destruction of Hurricane Mitch.

The other events are moving forward. City officials have tentatively planned a return trip to Cuba at the end of the month to explore the exchanges, which have drawn criticism from Cuban exile groups.

Schmoke has assembled a round table of about 50 to 60 area residents who are either Cuban natives or have an interest in the nation to advise the city on its exchange plans, Tawney said.

Pub Date: 3/05/99

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