Venezuela is a gold mine of talent for baseball players. Miguel Cabrera, Felix Hernandez, and Jose Altuve are just a few of over 350 Venezuelans to have played Major League Baseball. So rich the talent in Venezuela that it trails only the Dominican Republic in non-American players currently playing in the majors. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that since the slide in oil prices, baseball players are Venezuela’s hottest commodity.
In this context, you’d be surprised to learn that Major League teams now have only six training academies in the country, down from 21 over a decade earlier. The decline isn’t due to a drop off in the supply of talented players but mostly the ongoing mayhem unfolding in the country. Rising crime, lack of food, rapid migration, toilet paper shortages, joke elections, riots, and political prisoners are just a sample of the many problems that worsen with each passing day. Investing in Venezuela is a high risk and dangerous proposition.
For a player returning home to friends and family after a long season should be a joyous occasion. To do so in Venezuela is to take one’s life in their own hands.
In 2011, All Star catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped and held for ransom. Other players have been targeted and relatives of former players Ugueth Urbina, Victor Zambrano, Yorvit Torrealba have also been snatched. Miguel Montero of the World Champion Chicago Cubs had this to say in 2015 about going back home, "I would go from the place where I was trying to get my passport to the house and back. That's it,'' Montero said. "You want to go to your country to relax and have a good time, not to be shut inside your house because you're afraid to go out. … There are safety concerns anywhere in the world, but you watch the news about Venezuela and more people have been killed there than in Afghanistan.'' Montero is just one of many baseball players who have fled his native land for the United States along with other baseball luminaries, such as Felix Hernandez, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, and Victor Martinez.
News stories on Venezuela’s collapse often refer to the situation as a tragedy or calamity, as if the issues befalling the country are random or arbitrary due to bad luck, such as a natural disaster or communicable disease. Without question, however, Venezuela’s descent into darkness began with the election of communist leader Hugo Chavez in 1998. Since, the country's murder rate has increased fivefold, and a once prosperous and well-educated country by Latin American standards is now in complete ruins.
But why should we be surprised? When does communism ever make things better? Compare North and South Korea, Miami and Havana, and in the Cold War days East and West Germany. Communism destroys freedom, innovation, and the incentive to produce. Once communism gets its grip on a country, the odds that it leaves power peacefully are slim. The defenders of communism who believe its philosophy underpinnings are sound which fail only in execution due to poor leadership need to read Solzhenitsyn’s "The Gulag Archipelago" or Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia" to understand the true savage nature of its adherents.
As all this is true, why are so many people still infatuated with communism or think some of a bad thing, socialism, is good? It’s troubling how many young Americans now believe communism and or socialism is a viable option. A poll sponsored by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that 64 percent of Millennials agreed with Karl Marx’s maxim, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." Perhaps they should visit Venezuela and take with them all the celebrities that touted Hugo Chavez to learn, first-hand, the reality of what communism actually is.
Matthew Kastel is a 25-year veteran of working as an executive in the world of sports, including professional teams, organizations, and some of the largest vendors in the industry. Matt has also written two novels and teaches and lectures at universities on the business of sports. For more information you can visit his website at thirdstrikeproductions.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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