by Derek Helling publisher by Fansided
Venezuelan sports journalist Broderick Zerpa shares his first-hand account of the political disruption in Venezuela and the toll it’s taking.
José Altuve, Elvis Andrus, Miguel Cabrera and K-Rod are not only a few examples of the best talent that MLB has ever seen, but have one thing in common: they are natives of Venezuela. Venezuelan civil unrest that has been going on for years has plugged that pipeline, as Venezuelan sports journalist Broderick Zerpa explains.
(Author’s note: the interview with Mr. Zerpa was conducted in Spanish. The quotes from Zerpa are not his actual words, but rather an accurate translation of his words into English.)
“Since the current situation began, several MLB teams have removed their academies from Venezuela because of the immense insecurity in the country, where private property is not respected at all and thousands of people die victims of the underworld each year,” said Zerpa, who runs beisbologo.com. “Of course this situation made it impossible to continue with the Venezuelan Summer League, which was MLB’s biggest investment in the country.”
The current situation that Zerpa refers to revolves around the political leadership of the nation. President Nicolás Maduro, who faces stiff opposition in the country’s national assembly, is attempting to form a new legislative body for the country which will be more friendly to his tenure as the leader of the socialist government. Zerpa explains that the problem runs deeper than that, however.
“The current constitution in Venezuela provides for a revocation process, in which halfway through the presidential term the people can request a plebiscite on the work of the president and if the majority approves, there would be an election of a new president,” Zerpa stated. “A presidential term is six years and the referendum was in the third year of Maduro’s term. Maduro has prevented the people of Venezuela from exercising that constitutional right for over a year now.”
Maduro’s attempt to re-write the constitution to keep himself in power has not only put the government in chaos, but every aspect of the country as well. Violence between Maduro supporters and opponents has resulted in deaths and the structures which support the daily lives of the Venezuelan people have eroded.
“We need our friends and neighbors to understand that calamity is a daily occurence in my country,” Zerpa added. “There is no food, no basic medical supplies like Tylenol, gauze or aspirin. The minimum wage in my country today is $11 a month and there are no jobs. In my country, the underworld kills more than 25,000 people a year. That’s more deaths than were sustained in the Gulf War.”
The calamity that Zerpa talks about hasn’t gone unfelt by active MLB players. Even at the risk of violence to their families back in Venezuela, players like Cabrera, Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli and Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar have used their platforms to call attention to the humanitarian crisis in their native land.
“That is the way to help us, make known our tragedy and let the world see the suffering of a noble people who freed five other nations from Spanish colonial rule and never charged anything for that aid,” Zerpa elaborated.
In Zerpa’s mind, the best solution for the unrest is clear, although it would be an immense undertaking considering the details of the current situation.
“The resignation of the President and the Supreme Court and the formation of a governing body where there is representation of various sectors of society are badly needed,” Zerpa said. “We need free elections without the intervention of the current National Electoral Council and with the oversight of the Organization of American States and United Nations.”
Until those things happen, things like baseball are irrelevant.
“Society today is so focused on criticizing the regime or defending it that sport is in a third or fourth-level interest,” Zerpa explained. “The areas where it had been played are closed or taken by the government or by the opposition. There is no place to play sports for either amateurs or professionals.”
MLB fans should enjoy the play of Altuve, Cabrera and others while they can. It may be a while before fans see similar talent come from Venezuela. Tumultuous life in the country is not only suffocating baseball, but the Venezuelan people as well.