Venezuelan major leaguers speak against crackdown back home

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) A group of major leaguers from Venezuela is speaking out against President Nicolas Maduro's crackdown on anti-government protests, which has left more than 30 people dead.

In a video published Monday night on social media, 13 players including Kansas City's Salvador Perez, Cincinnati's Eugenio Suarez and Pittsburgh's Francisco Cervelli call on Maduro's government to stop beating back demonstrators who for the past month have paralyzed Venezuela, pushing for the embattled socialist's departure.

''We're not speaking as players but as citizens who love their country,'' said Cervelli, a catcher, wearing his uniform and standing in front of a Venezuelan flag.

Baseball is Venezuela's most popular sport and one of the few institutions that has managed to unite the country across deep political divisions. When former Cleveland Indians All-Star Omar Vizquel led a star-studded roster in March to the World Baseball Classic in Mexico, the team was cheered on by government officials and opponents alike.

Many of the members of that team, some of whose family members back home had suffered assaults and kidnappings, were careful not to wade too deeply into the country's turbulent political waters.

But that restraint seems to have fallen by the wayside as the country spins further out of control.

In the video, a compilation of short clips shot on cellphones from clubhouses around Major League Baseball, players openly speak out against the ''repression'' by Maduro's ''dictatorship.''

''They're killing us and taking away our future,'' said Ender Inciarte, an outfielder with the Atlanta Braves.

Vizquel, a sporting hero to Venezuelans who visits Caracas with frequency, is also breaking his silence.

''I feel very sad for everything that's happening in my country today,'' he said in an interview Tuesday with Caracas' Exitos FM radio. ''We don't want to see the sort of violence that's taking place in our streets.''

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