More beisbol, less rollo

Here's dreaming of the day the Estadio Universitario hosts the kind of baseball game that can put useless old conflicts to rest.


As news came in from Belgium earlier during the day, the mood seemed unfit for what was about to be the most important baseball game in recent years. Tampa Bay Rays were visiting Cuba in a spring training game turned symbolic pivot for Cuban-American relations. And even with so much going on, the headlines attest to how vital sports, once again, were in bridging differences among nations.

Barack Obama and Raúl Castro sat side by side in the stands of the Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana for a day at the ballpark. And as we see Chavista Venezuela’s closest ally cuddle closer to its sworn ideological enemy, we can only wonder whether this formula of baseball-diplomacy would cut it to clean the sleight between Americans and yet another Caribbean country.

And the answer is: ¡de bolas que sí!

Just picture it: It’s mid-December, so the sky is clear as it tends to perpetually be during Christmas time in Caracas, the breeze is cool and crisp, and everybody is in a better than average mood in the Estadio Universitario de Caracas, capital of the newly founded Sixth Republic of Venezuela.

The venue is stacked to the hilt with spectators, journalists, and an eclectic blend of sports fans and political notables.

President Smolansky and President Clinton rise for the national anthems, as the prelude of the biggest day in Venezuelan diplomacy in decades, after a sombre period of a total lack of it. Then the Venezuelan League’s All-Stars faces off the Criollos against the best Refuerzos. Aragua’s Alex Romero, Lara’s Juniel Querecuto and Ildemaro Vargas lead the local’s offense against league-mate pitchers Patrick Johnson, Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Joe Gardner, in a ballgame to remember.

Flags wave, the crowd plays its part by singing the Gloria al Bravo Pueblo and respectfully standing for the Star Spangled Banner. Nothing else is needed, other than a cry of “Play Ball!” to get things going.

Sports are where we find common ground, even more when the sport in question is one favored by a select few nations. It’s neutral ground, a place for competition but not antagonism, to appreciate talent and eat a hot dog or a tequeñón. It presents an opportunity to set aside road-blocking issues and switch the mood from tense to conciliatory in a second. It’s two pals chatting.

We will need as much help as possible once the Fifth is out and the Sixth is in, and symbolic offerings such as a ball game can provide a shift in tone desperately needed.

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  1. “And as we see Chavista Venezuela’s closest ally cuddle closer to its sworn ideological enemy”

    One of the main problems with most Venezuelan political commentators is that they refuse to acknowledge that the Democratic Party is on the same side of chavistas and castristas. They difference is in the disguise.

    • That they stand to the left of the Republicans doesn’t make them leftists. Last I checked, America was still as capitalist as always, in spite of having 16 out of the last 24 years under Democrat rule.

      Pears and apples are both fruit and have a sweet taste, but that’s all they have in common. The left wing of politics is much more ample than people aknowledge. To assume they all venerate Marx is nonsense.

    • “One of the main problems with international political commentators is that they refuse to acknowledge that MUD is on the same side of pinochetismo and fascism. The difference is in the disguise.”

      About as accurate as your comment.

    • I think that is a bit over the top. A more accurate view would be, “…the extreme wing of the Democratic Party…”. And most of those folks, had they ever truly experienced what living conditions are like, in the local currency and subject to the local laws, in Venezuela or Cuba, would probably moderate their tone a bit.

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the two parties struggle between liberty and equality. Its the means of doing so that spark the conflict. At the end of the day, throw those two things out and they are all pretty much the same.

      The extreme fringe of the Dems is only about 10% of the party. There’s a huge space in the middle for moderates of both parties and putative independents and they want none of what the fringe is pushing. The problem is that the Repubs have swung out so far to the right, courtesy of the Tea Party, that they are shoving the middle into the lap of the Dems for lack of a reasonable alternative.

      I’ve always felt that the Tea Party, in its rhetoric and divisiveness and complete unwillingness to compromise, has had far more in common with chavismo than the Democrats.

      • You can say that in all seriousness after the US Government, via the IRS, treated the “Tea Party” groups as second-class citizens.
        After the latest US federal court ruling this week (with a bi-partisan group of judges), just blasted the IRS and DOJ for their stone-walling and actions?
        No, my friend, it is the left that that has far more in common with chavismo.

        • The Common Sense Chasm you have to span to even suggest a commonality between Chavismo and the 2016 US Democratic Party is so wide, I don’t think it’s bridgeable in a blog comment section. I’ll just say this. Your position is wrong. But much worse than that, it’s ridiculous.

          • You must be reading something I did not write. It was not I that suggested any fringe of any party had anything in common with chavismo, but the previous post. That was what I was addressing. However, if you observe the IRS scandal in how they went outside of the law and the DOJ defense of those actions. That, my friend is a page straight out of the chavismo playbook.

  2. Well, that’s just ridiculous… Yes, Democrats are to the left of the Republican party. That doesn’t mean, however, that they’re on the same side of the free-market-haters, don’t-give-a-shit-about-institutions, militaristic dictators we’ve had recently in the region. That linear view of politics is clearly a fallacy, an oversimplification of reality equally likely to be used by the Trumps (who calls everybody a communist) and the Chávez (if you’re not my follower you’re a pitiyanki, etc) of the world.

  3. Baseball, like the Olympics, can be a time to set aside diplomatic differences and let people interact in a personal way. Sharing sports can bring leaders and people together.

    However, when one the leaders has hands are soaked in blood, it is best to keep your distance. In his first week in power over 50 years ago Raúl Castro lined up 70 men next to a ditch and had them assassinated without trial. It is estimated that up to 20,000 Cubans have been murdered by the Castro’s to keep in power. Moreover, 70,000 Cubans have drowned trying to escape Cuba by rafts to get to the U.S. Killings continue today. Cubans have no freedoms, bad health care, bad education, little food, and zero freedom of speech. Raúl Castro was never elected to anything. He is a multi-billionaire oppressive dictator and sworn enemy of the United States.

    A standing U.S. president should not have state dinners or ball games to celebrate Raúl Castro. Why the hell Obama would bring his family to meet such a scumbag like Raúl Castro is beyond my comprehension. Obama puts on a real shit-eating grin everytime he is with Castro. Cut that crap out; be serious.

    • How embarrassing for the United States, to have its President standing proudly in front of a mural of Che Guevara. A mass murderer.

      • So are you guys arguing for sustaining the embargo? An invasion? What’s the end game you visualize?

        The embargo might have been useful for a few years, but I’ve never understood the rationale of maintaining it all this time as it patently failed in what it was designed to do. The Castros are still there.

        An strategy used for the better part of six decades with no results is a failed strategy and needs to be changed. Market forces would apply far more leverage as an impoverished population is too worried about survival to put up much resistance.

        A wealthy and educated middle class however, has a lot more leverage. Sure, it won’t happen overnight, but give it time and it would certainly have to work better than the embargo did.

        All the embargo and the mutual antagonism between the US and Cuba did was hurt the Cuban people, not the Castros.

        What do you think is honestly being gained or lost by the US here? Standing in the eyes of the global community? Nobody likes them anyway, except for maybe the Brits.


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