Panama will host the Caribbean Series 2019 from February 4 to 10, after Venezuela was stripped of its seat due to strong political tensions, the Confederation of Caribbean Baseball announced Monday.
The Caribbean series in Venezuela canceled
The number of teams in the event was expanded from five to six to open space for the participation of the champion of the new host country along with their peers from Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, informed the commissioner of the Caribbean Baseball, Juan Francisco Puello Herrera.
"It was traumatic to find an alternate location," acknowledged Puello Herrera at a press conference in Santo Domingo, underlining the "enormous efforts" made to finalize the move.
The Rod Carew stadium in Panama City will host the 2019 edition after the Caribbean confederation removed the tournament for the second consecutive year to the Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto.
In 2018 it also did so as a result of violent protests against the government of Nicolás Maduro, with 125 deaths between April and August 2017.
On Sunday, the entity announced that "officially and irrevocably" had decided to withdraw the headquarters to Barquisimeto, where the tournament was scheduled from February 2 to 8.
In a statement read to journalists on Monday, Venezuelan Sports Minister Pedro Infante accused the confederation of giving in to "pressure generated from Major League Baseball" (MLB) for "extradeportive political reasons."
The MLB had recommended to the personnel of their organizations, "in the strongest terms, the immediate cessation of trips to Venezuela for any reason."
The Venezuelan crisis intensified after the self-proclamation as interim president of the head of the opposition-majority Parliament, Juan Guaidó, recognized by the United States and several countries in Latin America. Before, the legislature declared Maduro as "usurper".
According to human rights organizations, demonstrations in the last week have left at least 35 dead and 850 arrested.
The Caribbean Series will feature Leñadores de Las Tunas (Cuba), Estrellas Orientales (Dominican Republic), Cangrejeros de Santurce (Puerto Rico), Cardinals of Lara (Venezuela) and, now, Toros de Herrera (Panama).
It only remains to define the representative of Mexico, in a final between Charros de Jalisco and Yaquis of Ciudad Obregón.
It will be the return of Panamanian teams to the classic, which competed between 1949 and 1960. Already the Caribbean confederation had launched a project to expand the competition in 2020 with an extra quota that would decide in a tie the champions of Colombia, Nicaragua and Panama itself.