Amid protests and demonstrations across Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro has set out to rewrite the country’s constitution and do away with any semblance of democracy as defined by the global community. Meanwhile, the death toll and human rights violations continue unabated, and inflation has made the economy the worst it’s ever been for the once-rich South American nation.
These trying times have taken a serious toll on everyone of Venezuelan descent, with the country’s elite baseball players becoming especially vocal in their activism. Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera spoke out candidly last month via Instagram about his concern for his homeland, while others have begun speaking out in their own ways. In conversation with Bleacher Report, Colorado Rockies right fielder Carlos González says he’s exhausted by the situation. “Venezuelans, we only talk about politics now. There doesn’t go one day that we don’t say anything about a political issue. That’s it. If you see someone from Venezuela, it’s the first thing that comes up.”
The frustration has bubbled over into fear for players like González, who are targets due to their fame and wealth: “I love going there every offseason, but I always tell my wife that I would never take a chance. The way my family describes how the streets are, [it’s like] they’re living in a war. I won’t go there.”
In May, Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli took to the Players Tribune to write a heartfelt plea for peace. He’s also been one of the more vocal peloteros in his criticism of Maduro’s government. Cervelli and Milwaukee Brewers utility man Hernan Perez organized other Venezuelan players in a “Basta Ya” viral video.
There are more Venezuelan players in the major leagues now than ever before. The commissioner’s office reported that 76 Venezuelans made Opening Day rosters in 2017, the most in history. However, that number could shrink in the future due to the situation on the ground; MLB teams have even stopped sending scouts to Venezuela, choosing instead to attend prospect showcases like the one held in the Dominican Republic earlier this year.
With their country in a state of turmoil, now is the time for these high-profile MLB players to use their platforms for activism and aid. “We just want people to speak for themselves,” said San Diego Padres starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin to the San Diego Union-Tribune last month“We don’t want anybody to tell us what to do, and we just want to be free. We want more safety for our friends and families.”