HomeNewsBriefVenezuela’s Baseball Academies Batting Away Extortion Threats
BRIEF

Venezuela’s Baseball Academies Batting Away Extortion Threats

EXTORTION / 7 SEP 2020 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

With dozens of Venezuelan athletes now playing on Major League Baseball teams in the United States, a powerful gang has begun to extort local academies and scouts in charge of finding, training and developing them in their home country.

In late August, heavily armed men in north-central Aragua state appeared in a video in which they threatened scout Alexis Quiroz, who owns the AQ Sport Agency baseball academy, El Pitazo reported.

Weeks earlier, two of Quiroz’s bodyguards were shot at in the state capital of Maracay. Gunmen also shot up Quiroz’s home prior to the attack on his bodyguards, according to El Pitazo. The attack was allegedly carried out by members of the Tren de Aragua, a powerful "megabanda," or gang of more than 100 members.

SEE ALSO: Tren de Aragua Profile

In the video threat, the armed gunmen warned Quiroz that his family, staff and players will "suffer the consequences” if he "did not come to his senses."

“Look at what happened to the two bodyguards,” they added.

Quiroz and the AQ Sport Agency responded to the recent threats in a September 1 press release. "Criminal gangs try to sow terror and attack our staff and facilities. Faced with this situation, our organization denounced and appealed to the competent security authorities," the statement read in part.

InSight Crime Analysis

Major League Baseball (MLB) contracts are worth millions of dollars, so it comes as little surprise that criminal groups might think targeting the scouts tasked with helping star players secure those contracts in the United States would lead to a big payday.

However, these academies are not flush with money, suffering from the same economic insecurity as the rest of the country. In recent years, several MLB teams’ academies in Venezuela have been shuttered entirely, unable to maintain their facilities or provide food and other services to their prospects.

More than a quarter of MLB players in 2020 were born outside the United States. After the Dominican Republic, Venezuela ranked second with 75 players featured on opening day rosters this year, according to league data.

The salaries of Venezuelan baseball players are astronomical when compared to the average Venezuelan, who likely earns around or even less than $4 a day, the country’s minimum wage in 2020. In July 2019, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed 16-year-old outfielder Luis Rodriguez -- the fourth-ranked international prospect at the time -- to a contract worth almost $2.7 million.

Baseball academies like the one run by Quiroz in Aragua are a crucial part of premier players securing MLB contracts. The AQ Sport Agency is part of an official partnership between MLB and dozens of independent trainers in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Venezuela designed to “help develop international baseball.” In Venezuela alone, MLB works with 30 trainers like Quiroz.

SEE ALSO: Trump-Cuba Curveball May Boost Baseball Smuggling Networks

The Venezuelan state of Aragua has produced some of Major League Baseball’s most impressive players. José Altuve, who won the World Series with the Houston Astros in 2017, was born in Maracay, Aragua's capital city near the northern Caribbean coast. Detroit Tigers infielder Miguel Cabrera, a seven-time all-star and World Series champion who is almost certain to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame when his career ends, according to analysts, was also born in Aragua.

This trend of top-level talent coming from the state continues today. The MLB's second-most touted international prospect, 16-year-old phenom Wilman Diaz, is from Aragua and trains with Quiroz at AQ Sport Agency.

The state also serves as the Tren de Aragua's stronghold, where it runs extortion, car theft and kidnapping rings. The megabanda -- known for extreme violence -- now has tentacles stretching across Venezuela and into nearby countries.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EXTORTION / 24 JUL 2014

Authorities in Guatemala have highlighted the range of tactics used by criminals to extort money from businesses, a crime that…

ARGENTINA / 28 OCT 2019

Argentina has dismantled a gang focused on extorting taxi drivers at Buenos Aires’ main bus station, the second such incident…

COLECTIVOS / 4 NOV 2014

A few months ago I was in Caracas, Venezuela having coffee with Alexis when our conversation was interrupted by a…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…