- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2009

CARACAS, VENEZUELA (AP) - President Hugo Chavez came to the defense of Magglio Ordonez on Sunday, slamming Venezuelan baseball fans who booed the major leaguer at the World Baseball Classic.

Chavez lamented that his friendship with Ordonez prompted catcalls from the mostly Venezuelan crowd during the team’s 3-1 victory over the Netherlands in Miami on Saturday, saying the fans who booed the Detroit Tigers slugger “have no shame.”

“Everyone has the right to think about politics,” Chavez said after reading an article about the incident from The Associated Press. “This is shameful.

“Viva Magglio, and all our patriots!” Chavez added.

Ordonez, who went 0-for-3, said he felt “ashamed” by the way Venezuelans in the crowd reacted every time he stepped to the plate. Fans cheered loudly when he struck out in the fourth inning.

The crowd applauded when Venezuela manager Luis Sojo took Ordonez out of the game after the seventh inning.

Most Venezuelans in South Florida despise the left-leaning Chavez.

Ordonez, one of Venezuela’s biggest baseball stars, appeared in a television ad last month supporting a proposal by Chavez to eliminate term limits for the president and other elected officials through a constitutional amendment. Voters approved the proposal in a Feb. 15 referendum.

The outfielder also joined the socialist for a friendly softball game ahead of the vote, but Chavez denied Sunday that the match _ billed on state television as “The Amendment Cup” _ was a political event.

“It wasn’t political campaign,” Chavez said.

Sports Minister Victoria Mata also condemned the incident in a news report titled “Venezuelan worms in Miami” that was carried by YVKE Mundial, a state-run radio network.

“The hostility from those fans against a player who is defending Venezuela with courage and dignity is shameful,” the network quoted Mata as saying.

Chavez wished Ordonez luck in Venezuela’s upcoming games in the World Baseball Classic and also took a dig at the United States team, praising Puerto Rico for beating the Americans 11-1 in 7 innings on Saturday.

(This version CORRECTS attribution to Chavez in grafs 9-10.)

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