Caracas, 15th May 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – To basketball fans, Carl Herrera is a hero, the pride of Venezuela. In 1992, he became the first Venezuelan to join an NBA team in the U.S. In 1994 and 1995, he led the Houston Rockets to national championships. Today he is the coach for one of the leading professional basketball teams in Venezuela.
Nevertheless, his celebrity has not protected him from racist attacks. Last week, vandals who Diodado Cabello, President of the National Assembly, labeled “neo-fascists” scrawled racist death threats on three walls of the stadium where Herrera’s team was scheduled to play.
In one of the threats at the Dome of Barquisimento, Lara state, they wrote, “We will kill you, monkey”. Last year, in Maricaibo, a group of fans from the opposing team displayed placards with similar racist messages and drawings of bunches of bananas.
Cabello praised the popular privately-owned daily Ultimas Noticias for first publicizing these incidents and thereby puncturing a small hole in the prevailing myth that racism doesn’t exist in Venezuela.
Herrera told an Ultimas Noticias reporter, “These have been difficult times for me, my family and those who know me….It is the responsibility of the League to protect us, but there are huge holes in the League’s commitment. One cannot talk about them without correcting them. If you don’t criticize, then things cannot improve.”
Blanco Freddy, general secretary of the Revolutionary Afro Venezuelan Youth (JRAV) indicated that attacks like the one on Herrera are regularly experienced by African Descendants in Venezuela and rarely receive attention outside Afro Venezuelan communities. This will be one of the topics for discussion at the National Congress of Afro Venezuelan Youth for Life and Peace that is meeting in San Jose de Barlovento this weekend.
Meanwhile, the President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello drew attention to the problem during a nationally televised show. He declared, “This cannot be. There cannot be racism in the basketball courts of Venezuela. They insult Herrera every time there’s a game. The brakes must be put on the situation immediately.”
Cabello noted that he had spoken about the issue with President Maduro, who declared he would put all state means at the disposition of athletes to prevent such racism from recurring.
Implying that the Bolivarian state is committed to uprooting aspects of institutional racism, Cabello ordered a plenary session of the National Assembly to initiate whatever investigation is necessary to prevent a repetition of such racist conduct. At the same time, grassroots organizations like JRAV and the Afro Descendent Front will continue to press their campaigns for the complete elimination of racism.