The deaths of Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo on Thursday have shed more light on the escalating turmoil in Venezuela.

What was first reported by sports media as a car crash due to a rock that rolled onto the highway, was later confirmed as a robbery ploy by thieves, leading to the detention of four people who were found to have possession of the players' personal belongings. One of the two survivors of the SUV accident, Carlos Rivero, attended a chapel honoring Valbuena while "wearing dark sunglasses and bearing a small bruise on his forehead," according to ESPN.

Venezuela, a country of over 31 million, is considered a hotbed for burgeoning talent, as only the Dominican Republic has more Major League Baseball players born outside the U.S. 

The deaths of Valbuena, 33, and Castillo, 37, may have provided some baseball observers, who may not otherwise be aware of Venezuela's troubles, with a glimpse into its deteriorating political and economic infrastructure. In recent days, websites like and have touched on Venezuela's current problems.

The Los Angeles Times in March 2017 reported about the country's violent crime epidemic "escalating into a full-blown humanitarian crisis," as corruption and failed governance had led to a collapsing economy and widespread hunger. One non-government group estimated that in 2015 there were 27,875 murders, while the capital of Caracas in 2017 was named the world's most dangerous city by the Citizens' Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice.

In May, Al Jazeera published Venezuelan journalist Nayrobis Rodriguez's first-hand account of her "struggle to find food, cash, transport and toilet roll and her increasingly ingenious means of getting by." 

Despite the many baseball academies and the wealth of talent, Major League Baseball has advised clubs to avoid traveling to Venezuela. Team buses in Venezuela are often accompanied by security forces.

In July 2017, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta, a native of the Venezuelan city of Valencia, announced a $10,000 plan with the team, along with Project Cure, to help his hometown receive much-needed medical supplies.

“We’re trying the best we can to do stuff and raise awareness on what Venezuela is going through right now,” Peralta told USA Today. “It’s not easy, but we want to let everyone know in this country that Venezuela needs help.”

Once a prosperous nation, Venezuela has experienced a mass exodus, as the number of refugees and migrants has surpassed 3 million.