Henry Blanco, one of the most likable members of the 2008 Cubs, is now going through a personal tragedy just because he is a member of Major League Baseball and is therefore wealthy. His brother, Carlos Simon Blanco, was killed in Caracas, Venezuela in what was suspected to be a kidnapping gone bad, as if there is such a thing as a kidnapping that goes well.
Blanco was known for being a veteran presence on the Cubs bench who could also bring humor to the team. Geovany Soto's Rookie-of-the-Year winning season was due in no small part to Blanco's mentorship. Though his contract was declined for next season, he is still loved by Chicagoans. His calm, fun-loving demeanor made him extremely popular in his home country of Venezuela. After the MLB season finished, he always hurried home to play in the winter leagues. That popularity is what made his family a target.
Kidnapping is a huge problem in South America. A third of the world's kidnappings happen in South American countries, and the U.S. State department warns that kidnapping happens with impunity in Venezuela. There were 1,000 reported kidnappings there, but that number is low since so many kidnappings are not reported. Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Ugueth Urbina went through a five-month ordeal in Venezuela when his mother was kidnapped. She was eventually saved, but not after months of wrangling with the kidnappers. With so many kidnappings unreported, it's likely there have been more crimes against MLB players that haven't been reported
It's safe to assume that the crime won't stop at Blanco. Several top players are Venezuelan, including the Cubs' ace pitcher Carlos Zambrano, and White Sox coach Ozzie Guillen is also from Venezuela. With the high rate of kidnappings in Venezuela, it's safe to assume that the local officials aren't capable of solving the problem. The Players' Association would do well to spend more time assisting their athletes in finding adequate security arrangements instead of spending time fighting drug testing.
A change needs to happen: obviously, the constant flow of athletes from the Third World to Major League Baseball isn't slowing down. No one should have to sacrifice their brother while making that transition.