Magglio Ordonez of the Detroit Tigers and the Venezuelan national team was booed lustily during a recent WBC game in Miami. Unlike most ballplayers, he wasn’t booed for his performance or a visible lack of effort. Rather, he was booed because of his close associations with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Carlos Frias of the Palm Beach Post sets the scene:
In an event that brings out deep national pride in Latin America, Venezuelans made up easily 90 percent of the announced 17,345, which may have been more like 14,000 actual fans. The stadium’s orange and teal seats were eclipses by fans in red, yellow and blue, Venezuela’s national colors, waving Venezuelan flags and singing Venezuelan chants as a midday sun beat down on them and the players.
But it was clear they came dressed not to just to watch, but to participate in their national debate as soon as the lineups were announced. Roars went up as each player was introduced – an especially hearty applause went to former Marlin Miguel Cabrera – until they came to Ordonez, when a hailstorm of whistles, catcalls and throaty abucheos made the crowd seem to double in size.
Chavez, much his like his friend and ally Fidel Castro, is deliriously unpopular in South Florida because of his repressive policies. Ordonez recently angered disaffected Venezuelans by campaigning to end term limits in his native country–a step that could make Chavez, given his election-fraud proclivities, president for life. That, in part, is why fans reacted so strongly to Ordonez.
After all, Stalinist land seizures, absolute control of the media, and countless other authoritarian measures tend to make one a firebrand. If Ordonez wants to work for the continuation of those policies, then he should consider his unpopularity among Venezuelan expats a very minor consequence.