In case you don’t pay even a cursory amount of attention to world news: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died of cancer last week. The controversial (yes, I hate that euphemism too) leader was best known as the most visible figure in the South American socialist movement, largely due to his fondness for loudly and prominently criticizing the United States government in the harshest of terms. His death and political divisions in the country are likely to create quite a bit of turmoil in Venezuela as various factions strive to seize control in the vacuum of power, and Major League Baseball sits among those who will watch with intense interest in the future direction of the nation that boasts more major league players than anyone other than the U.S. and the Dominican Republic.
In recent years Chavez, a huge baseball fan, had been attempting to exert some control over MLB franchises’ academy system in Venezuela. In particular, Chavez wanted to levy a 10% tax on MLB for the signing bonuses the players received, and require MLB to pay to educate the players and give them job training outside of simply playing baseball, as noted by Dave Zirin at The Nation just after Chavez’s death:
He told MLB that they would have to institute employee and player benefits and job protections.