A baseball superstar in the U.S. denounced Venezuelan "dictators" while asking them not to harm his family over his political criticisms, in personal videos published this week.
Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera called for "the end of communism" in Venezuela, which is suffering from food shortages and protests against President Nicolas Maduro, successor to the late Hugo Chavez. Cabrera, perhaps the best slugger of his generation, is one of the most prominent Venezuelan baseball players to make public criticisms of the regime.
"I protest for truth, for the end of communism, and I am not with dictators," Cabrera said, according to an ESPN translation of his Spanish language comments. "To the people of the resistance, you are not alone."
Cabrera didn't back down even though they are potentially risky remarks, given that his family still lives in the country. "I'm tired of paying protection money so they don't kidnap my mother," Cabrera also said.
The Venezuela crisis is a cause for growing concern among U.S. leaders. President Trump's Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Maduro's vice president, as well as the Maduro-aligned Supreme Court after the judicial body dissolved the national legislature. "Right now what's happening is, really, a disgrace to humanity," President Trump said in May.
Maduro responded by saying Trump should get his "pig hands out of here." But Trump's team has signaled an interest in escalating U.S. pressure on the regime, and described their policy in language borrowed from their response to the threat of North Korea. "We're definitely moving beyond ‘strategic patience,'" an administration official told Politico in June.
An anti-Maduro activist who was imprisoned in 2014 was transferred to house arrest last week, drawing limited praise from the State Department, which noted that 400 other political prisoners remain in the country.
"This is a significant step in the right direction by the government of Venezuela," said spokeswoman Heather Nauert. "We underscore our call for an end to the conflict and repression that have consumed Venezuela, and urge all parties to commit themselves to a peaceful resolution of this dispute that respects Venezuela's constitution, its democratic institutions, and the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people."
Cabrera joins NBA player Enes Kanter as an athlete in America who has denounced authoritarian leadership in their home country. Turkish officials cancelled Kanter's passport while he was traveling overseas in an attempt to force his return to the country, and arrested his father over his criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Tigers star pleaded for his family to be spared any mistreatment. "Please do not do anything to my family. That's what I ask," Cabrera said. "As the Chavistas told me, 'If you go to Venezuela, they will break you, they will kill you.'"