As protests and political unrest continue to rock their homeland, Venezuelan athletes have taken to social media to denounce the repression and violence that is plaguing the South American country. Their statements and actions couldn’t come at a more cruicial moment, as April has been one of the bloodiest months in Venezuela since President Nicolas Máduro took office in 2013.
On Wednesday, Juan Pernalete Lovera was killed in a demonstration in downtown Caracas, as protestors marched on the National Ombudsman’s office in the capital region known as Chacao. Pernalete, 20, was on a basketball scholarship at the Metropolitan University of Caracas. The Mayor of Chacao, Ramón Muchacho, stated that there will be an investigation in Pernalete’s death, but did not state the cause in a series of tweets on Wednesday afternoon.
Private Venezuelan news organizations that run counter to state propaganda have independently reported, however, that Pernalete was killed after a tear gas bomb hit him in the chest. Several sources are also reporting that he may have had head trauma.
Opposition protesters were marching in hopes of getting the National Ombudsman, Tarek William Saab, to authorize their campaign to remove judges they deemed corrupt from the Venezuelan Supreme Court.
In response to the protests and the anti-demonstration actions from police that have claimed the lives of 30 people in the last three weeks, Venezuela’s most renowned athletes are speaking out. On Wednesday evening, Palmeiras midfielder and vinotinto standout Alejandro “Lobo” Guerra posted a long message on Instagram, urging for the government to stop repressing the protests, stating that they are innocent people who just want a change in Venezuela.
Elsewhere, Juventus midfielder Tomás Rincón posted a message on Twitter earlier this week, saying that he wants to be a driver for change in his country, while also joining Guerra in pleading for less repression by police during demonstrations.
Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera also posted a message of hurt and support for Venezuela earlier this month, saying that he’s not Chavista or opposition, he’s “Venezuelan, and that my country’s situation hurts me. It’s enough.”