Baseball diplomacy: Nicaragua
Cal Ripken Jr. recently agreed to serve as a "goodwill ambassador" on a mission to improve relations with Nicaragua, the most baseball-friendly country in Central America. It was a daunting challenge, given the surge in political violence in Nicaragua, but he went ahead and spent many hours teaching young kids the basics of baseball. That took real courage. Ripken had to change his lodging arrangements, however, because a Sandinista mob smashed windows in the mall located next to his hotel. Nicaragua just held municipal elections across the country, and the opposition charged that there was widespread fraud. The State Department has criticized the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega for repressing dissent and outlawing certain opposition political parties. See Washington Post. It is sad that the former dictator Ortega was given the chance to regain power because of a corrupt alliance with a nominally "conservative" political leader. The infighting among parties, and even within parties in Nicaragua, has put democracy at grave risk.
Joining Ripken was former Montreal Expos pitcher Dennis Martinez, for whom the national stadium in Managua was named.