Caribbean Series a chance to showcase Venezuela’s ‘revival,’ gov’t says

By Sarai Coscojuela and Genesis Carrero Soto

Caracas, Jan 27 (EFE).- With a new, modern stadium capable of seating nearly 40,000 people, a colorful seaside promenade and a recent easing of United States-imposed sanctions allowing the participation of Major League Baseball players, Venezuela is poised to showcase at the upcoming Caribbean Series its economic revival and ability to host world-class events.

The national government and the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League (LVBP) are now making final preparations to welcome the seven teams that will compete alongside the host nation in the 65th edition of the Caribbean Series, scheduled for Feb. 2 to Feb. 10.

Venezuela is finally hosting the competition once again after two consecutive years (2018 and 2019) when it was moved from that country to an alternate location due to political “instability.”

But with an incipient economic recovery offering renewed optimism in a nation racked by a years-long recession and bouts of hyperinflation, Venezuela is now confident it can exceed expectations while demonstrating its transition from the “resistance to the revival stage,” Sports Minister Mervin Maldonado told Efe.

For his part, the chief executive of the Caribbean Series’ organizing committee, Humberto Oropeza, said Venezuela had to clear several hurdles to make this event a reality.

The first was to secure a lifting of a US Office of Foreign Assets Control ban that had prevented MLB players from competing in Venezuela.

“I think that was the biggest (challenge), the OFAC one … without the OFAC license, MLB players wouldn’t have been able to come and logically the other countries would’ve said, ‘how am I going to go play if I can’t take my MLB players that are on the roster?’ which in the case of Santo Domingo must be 50 percent” of the total, Oropeza said.

The number of competing squads has been expanded from six to eight in this latest edition of the tournament, whose list of competitors now includes not only the winners of the Colombian, Dominican, Mexican, Panamanian, Puerto Rican and Venezuelan leagues, but also the Cuban and Curaçaoan leagues.

Games will be played simultaneously at two separate venues: at the state-of-the-art La Rinconada Stadium outside Caracas and at Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro Stadium in Macuto, a seaside resort town near the Venezuelan capital whose attractions include a colorful promenade popular with walkers and joggers.

Despite the logistical challenges, Maldonado said Venezuela is up to the task and pledged that the country will put on a first-class sporting event that underscores its success in overcoming harsh US sanctions in recent years on its lifeblood oil industry.

The LVBP’s president, Giuseppe Palmisano, hailed the support shown by the Venezuelan government in building the two stadiums, taking measures to boost security and granting broadcasting licenses to media companies.

“The government has made an effort to (grant) permission through visas, permission to enter the country, always wanting to elevate sport in spite of any political differences,” he told Efe.

La Rinconada Stadium, which Maldonado said will seat 38,000 people, is still under construction, with more than 3,000 laborers working around the clock to have it ready by Feb. 2.

He said that stadium will have seven levels and be of the same caliber as venues in the Americas and Asia that have played host to World Baseball Classic games.

Fans, players and the media “will have the chance to appreciate the best baseball stadium in all of Latin America and the Caribbean” and one that even rivals big-league stadiums in the US.

Efe was able to tour La Rinconada prior to its inauguration and observe the finishing touches being put on the playing field, as well as its modern and spacious stands and luxury boxes (including a presidential box).

Organizers said their focus is not on the revenue and earnings from hosting the games, whose ticket prices range from between $2 and $40, but on the boost in prestige that will come with a smoothly run event.

Indeed, they have set their sights so high that they plan to eventually petition the MLB for the right to serve as a host country of the World Baseball Classic. EFE


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