At the start of this season, there were 76 Venezuelan players on MLB’s 25-man rosters—the third most represented nationality after American and Dominican. It’s estimated that 80 more Venezuelans will sign with teams this year. They leave behind family and friends in a country that is growing increasingly unstable.
As the Venezuelan economic crisis has boiled over into violent and sometimes deadly protests of President Nicolás Maduro—who has failed to address the desperate food and medicine shortages and who is accused of altering the government and the constitution to shut down political opposition—many players have begun speaking out.
Reportedly, some of the Venezuelan players have kept quiet out of concerned that their public support of the protests would put loved ones back in Venezuela at risk. But those that want to comment on the unrest have been using social media to share their messages of support for the protests and to raise awareness.
“All the Venezuelan athletes in the world, we’ve got to make noise,” Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week. “The people in my country are lonely. They are fighting, and no one is helping. People born in Venezuela are killing their own people. It’s crazy. They shouldn’t have the kind of power to do what they’re doing. It’s been 18 years [of Socialist Party rule] already. It’s out of control.”
Although Cervelli, who insists his concern is not for politics but rather for human rights, rejects the notion that he’s a leader for his countrymen in the league, he helped organize a video featuring 13 Venezuelan ball players calling for an end to the repression and corruption of Maduro’s regime.
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