Venezuela’s political crisis has now hit America’s favorite pastime. Major League Baseball is banning its players from participating in the Venezuelan Winter League. The ban is one of the first public effects of new U.S. economic sanctions against the Venezuelan government.
Many major league baseball players use the Venezuelan Winter League to hone their skills in the offseason. But MLB says it will “fully adhere to the policies” made by the U.S. government.
President Donald Trump’s administration issued a broad ban blocking American companies and individuals from doing business with Venezuela’s socialist government. This move put Venezuela on a short list of U.S. adversaries. The others on the list are Cuba, North Korea, and Iran. All four nations are targeted with aggressive financial restrictions. The purpose of the sanctions is to cause those governments to amend practices that harm their citizens or threaten global security.
In order to respect the current sanctions, MLB says it will stop all involvement with the Venezuelan league for now. But it will not prevent Venezuelans who play on American teams from returning to their home country during the offseason.
Long before Venezuela’s current president, Nicolás Maduro, took office, the United States enjoyed a robust relationship with the oil-rich South American nation. Venezuela freely participated in mutual trade with the United States. But that relationship became strained when socialist Hugo Chávez rose to lead Venezuela. It got even worse after his successor Maduro continued down the same path.
Today, Venezuela’s economy and social structure is in a state of collapse. Reckless government spending of the nation’s oil wealth has created political tensions and drastic poverty. Hyperinflation makes it almost impossible for most citizens to purchase basic necessities like food and medicine.
Major League Baseball once operated sports academies in Venezuela. It regularly sent scouts to find young talent and bring players to “The Show” in the States. But due to rising crime rates and severe economic depression, MLB has pulled its scouts from Venezuela. Young baseball hopefuls must find another way to get the attention of big league teams. They depend on Venezuelan players who have already made it in America to bring them to the United States to compete.
From a political stance, the Trump administration supports Juan Guaidó, Maduro’s opponent. The sanctions are intended to help oust Maduro. The current U.S. leadership wants Guaidó to have an opportunity to lead Venezuela in a different direction—back to prosperity and security for its citizens.
A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor, but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days. — Proverbs 28:16