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Tigers’ Cabrera: Native Venezuela ‘being held hostage’

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera typically lets his bat do the talking. But he is making an exception for the Venezuelans protesting the socialist Maduro regime.

“I am Venezuelan and I protest for the truth,” he says in a series of videos posted on his Instagram account Monday. “Communism in Venezuela has to come to an end.”

Video still frame of Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera speaking out about political unrest in his homeland of Venezuela in a series of videos posted to his Instagram account.

Speaking in Spanish, the 11-time All-Star wears a boonie hat and sunglasses, and appears to be on a beach in the videos, which are available on YouTube. Cabrera is on break from the Tigers during the first All-Star Game he has not played in since 2009.

“I am not with a dictatorship,” he says. “I am not with anybody. We have to fight for our country. We have to find a solution.”

The Tigers have five players from Venezuela: Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Bruce Rondon, Dixon Machado and Anibal Sanchez. Cabrera, 34, and Martinez, 38, are now considered elder statesmen among Venezuelan players in the Major Leagues.

Cabrera rarely speaks up on significant issues other than baseball.

“I haven’t ever become involved in politics,” Cabrera says. “But we have to now because the country is being held hostage.”

On Sunday, anti-government protests in Venezuela marked their 100-day anniversary. It’s estimated at least 92 have been killed and more than 1,500 injured in the bloody protests.

The uprising was triggered by the Venezuelan government’s move to nullify the opposition-controlled congress, but have morphed into a general airing of grievances against the unpopular socialist administration.

The opposition gained control of the National Assembly in 2015 by a landslide amid mounting frustration with President Nicolas Maduro’s handling of the economy, spiraling crime and food shortages.

After a year of intense feuding, in late March the government-stacked Supreme Court issued a ruling stripping the legislature of its last powers. The decision was later reversed amid a storm of international criticism but it had already touched off anger among the government’s opponents and triggered street protests that still occur almost daily.

Then Maduro did something to anger his opponents even more: He called on May 1 for rewriting Venezuela’s constitution. A vote to elect delegates to the special assembly to rewrite the charter is scheduled for July 30. Maduro insists rewriting the constitution is the only way to restore peace, but the opposition views it as a ruse to install a Cuba-like dictatorship.

The military has traditionally been the arbiter of political disputes in Venezuela.

Miguel Cabrera

Since the protests began, more than 100 members of the military are believed to have been jailed for crimes ranging from theft of weapons to rebellion and treason — a high number that suggests the military’s support for the government may be wavering.

Meanwhile, the nation remains in a more or less permanent state of unrest.

Cabrera says he’s been asked to send weapons to Venezuela.

“People want me to send weapons because I have helped Venezuela a lot,” he said. “I’ve sent medicine, food and this and that, and now they want me to send weapons.”

In another video, he says he’s angry and tired of threats that someone is going to kidnap his mother.

“Please don’t do anything to my family,” he said. “I ask you.”

Polls say 75 percent of Venezuelans want Maduro gone, but about 20 percent still back him. More importantly, Maduro maintains a tight grip on almost every branch of government and its institutions, though support within his ruling socialist party is fraying.

Cabrera says he doesn’t support any dictatorship or any regime.

“Hello to the people of the resistance,” he says. “You are not alone. We continue to support you.”

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Associated Press contributed.