With Venezuela rocked by political turmoil and social struggles, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is among those having trouble compartmentalizing what they need to do on the field, while their thoughts are with family and friends back home.
“Every day I get messages from friends and family who have no food, who have no medicine for their little girls, who have no diapers,” Cervelli said. “I don’t recognize this Venezuela. It’s really difficult. The very first thing I do every single day is look at my phone to see what has happened. It’s extremely critical what’s happening back home.”
“My friends … my brothers that I grew up with … they are going through a really tough time. Every day they take out to the streets to wave a flag, which is all they have. With all that danger. With bullets buzzing around them. It’s crazy. Every day I am deeply saddened to see that.”
Anti-government protests demanding that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro step down have turned deadly in the capital of Caracas. Protesters accuse Maduro of not upholding democratic values and blame him for an inflation rate that is the highest in the world.
Maduro has sent the Venezuelan military onto the streets to maintain order, which has resulted in the death of a number of protesters.
Venezuela, once one of the richest countries in South America, now is experiencing shortages of milk, flour, toilet paper and medicine. Violent crime has risen sharply, as has the country’s unemployment rate. Rolling blackouts have also been commonplace.
“I am not suffering as much as those who have taken to the streets, but I am suffering with everything that’s happening,” Cervelli said. “I also suffer seeing that nobody does anything within the international community, with a government that is only making fun of people who are protesting in the streets with a Bible in their hand, with no clothes on, with no weapons, and they are asked to step aside and don’t let them be able to express themselves the way the law says they can.
“It’s a joke to them. This hurts my soul. It’s driving me crazy.”
Other Venezuelan-born players — there are nearly 80 on active rosters throughout the majors — have taken to social media to express their emotions about what is happening.
“It is terrible the situation that is living my country and my Venezuelan brothers,” Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos posted on his Instagram account: “I lived this situation personally last year when I went to play baseball. What Venezuelans live every day. Fear of insecurity that rob you or kill you, lack of essential products, lack of medicine. … I want a change of government because the one we have today in power has forgotten the people.”