Venezuela defends role as series host despite MLB warning

<p>
              Venezuela Sports Minister Pedro Infante speaks during a news conference from his office in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. Infante announced that Venezuela will go ahead with an upcoming international baseball tournament in Barquisimeto despite safety concerns stemming from anti-government unrest that has roiled the nation in the past week. (AP Photo/Boris Vergara)
            </p>

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — It’s “Play Ball!” for Venezuela’s besieged socialist government, which wants to go ahead with an international baseball tournament despite safety concerns stemming from anti-government unrest that has roiled the nation in the past week.

On Saturday, Sports Minister Pedro Infante, flanked by Venezuelan winter league officials, said that the government can guarantee security for the teams from five countries signed up to participate in the Caribbean Series, which is set to start Feb. 2 in the central city of Barquisimeto.

Major League Baseball this week recommended in the “strongest terms” that players and staff not travel to Venezuela for the tournament.

The Caribbean Professional Baseball Leagues Confederation has yet to announce whether the tournament will go ahead or not in Venezuela or perhaps in another venue.