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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Baseball in Panama is an international scandal

A Panamanian politician Franz Wever caused Panama's team to be ejected from its World Baseball Classic hotel and from the games in 2006 for failure to pay an insurance fee. Jan. 6-9, 2008: "As Panama's baseball czar --- president of FEDEBEIS --- PRD legislator (Franz) Wever is the goat of the recent (2006) World Baseball Championships in Taiwan. to allow players under contract to its teams to participate in the tournament. As a result Panama, which on the field won a spot in the quarterfinals, was eliminated from the tournament and In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Panama had a last-minute coaching change. Just before the tournament
  • Roberto Kelly, the Panamanian former big league outfielder who will be coaching at first base for the San Francisco Giants this coming season, was forced out as coach

at a FEDEBEIS meeting in which he

  • was bombarded with racial epithets, most notably "mierda negra." Wever went on to defend that insult in the local media as just another popular expression.

Major League Baseball owners, who have been trying since the 60s to keep racial strife out of the sport, took notice. For some the reported bottom line is that

There is a movement, headed by former big league player and former national baseball team coach Omar Moreno, to oust Wever as head of FEDEBEIS. Without overtly taking sides on that issue, business leaders and the US Embassy have flocked to events and press conferences put on by Moreno's foundation. The conspicuous approval for Moreno is at least in part intended as a silent slap at Wever.

so that he may face legal proceedings along with other current and former members of the Panamanian Olympic Committee for
  • Wever's immunity, however, has been hard and durable.

In 2004 witnesses say they caught him buying votes outside a polling place in his Panama City circuit, and

  • when the votes were counted, there were
  • more votes for legislator than there were ballots issued.

Wever was ruled to be the narrow winner of one of the multi-member circuit's seats and we don't have recounts here in Panama. The Electoral Prosecutor wanted to prosecute, but Wever's colleagues in the assembly refused to lift his immunity. Shortly thereafter the consitution was amended to put such decisions in the high court's hands....

  • Machine politics being what they are, the 'we'll blast a bunch of holes in your body if you oppose us' pitch rarely works just by itself. The big boss man has to deliver something. In some places, it has been the Christmas turkey. In other places, you get the one new shoe before you vote and the other one afterwards.

In circuit 8-3, Wever has the resources of FEDEBEIS at his disposal.

  • See, in the national baseball organization the PRD influence is not just him.

Four of the presidents of the provincial leagues (and thus members of the FEDEBEIS board of directors) are fellow PRD legislators --- Carlos Alvarado in Chiriqui, Benicio Robinson in Bocas del Toro, Juan Hernández in Panama Metro and Rubén De León in Veraguas. Most of the other leaders and employees are PRD hacks. "...

Mr. Jackson reports Feb. 2009 that Panama's same Franz Wever offered to expose himself to sports media at the Beijing Olympics:
  • "Not specifically mentioned but very palpable were the political implications. I just got a scowl out of Moreno when I mentioned FEDEBEIS president Franz Wever, the disgraced PRD legislator who was humiliated in the primary elections
after an infamous public performance at the Beijing Olympics, where he offered to show the sports press corps his penis.
  • (Moreno had long ago had his falling out with Wever, the former having been removed as the national baseball team's manager for the apparent sole purpose of demonstrating the latter's destructive power.) But Moreno is first among equals in a broad-based if mostly under the surface popular movement to rid the national baseball scene of Wever,
and one of the unwritten sub-texts of this event is that Major League Baseball, sick of Wever's financial abuses, and the US Embassy, eager to help talented young Panamanians and at the same time distance itself from the most flagrantly corrupt members of this country's political class, teamed up with the Fundacion Omar Moreno to put on this series of clinics specifically without involving Wever or FEDEBEIS."...Panama News, "Major League Boost for Panama's Little Leaguers"
  • Another story in April 2008 apparently reveals Wever's son, Franz Wever Jr., is an umpire creating more problems for Panama:
4/17/08, "Parity and Controversy in Panama," from De Beisbol, by Carlos Abrego

It happens that the receiver Santeña, Carlos Munoz, was sent off for dissent in the first game against Chiriqui, the Technical Committee of the Federation suspended him a game, but the Federation wants to suspend for two games.

  • Now the president of the Technical Committee and Secretary of the Federation, Elvis Polo, and the Technical Commissioner of the party in question, Emilio Castro, submitting his resignation are not being respected his work.
The decision was made based on the referee's report which said the protest was to the criterion of balls and strikes, no aggression towards him, for what it does imply a two-match suspension.

He has seemed strange that this time was not respected his decision, which it had happened on previous occasions.

Polo said:

Why are other times when suspensions were not questioned the decision of the committee?

Is it something personal Fedebeis president, as the umpire of the match was Franz Wever Jr.?

Both Prensa.com as Digital Panama tried to locate him to issue his opinion, but none of the means they could locate."

Eric Jackson article May 18, 2009 on what influence Panama's new president may have on these events: "Martinelli's Team," ThePanamaNews.com

"A baseball revolution?

  • Maybe the most thuggish face of the PRD, and one of the principal reasons for its collapse from an appearance that it would surely be re-elected to power to humiliating defeat in little more than a year's time, is the notorious Franz Wever. Wever, a legislator, probably kept his job in the National Assembly by fraud in 2004. The Electoral Prosecutor wanted to investigate him for election crimes, but his colleagues in the legislature forbade any investigation. The more votes counted than cast were dismissed as inadequate to prove that fraud had affected the election results.

    Wever, however, is more infamous as the head of Panamanian baseball's ruling organization, FEDEBEIS,

  • and as such a member of Panama's Olympic Committee.

His offer, at the Beijing Olympics, to show journalists his penis became one of the principal emblems of PRD arrogance. Meanwhile, the financial irregularities of both FEDEBEIS and the Olympic Committee have caused tremendous legal battles,

and caused the Panamanian team to be ejected from the 2006 World Baseball Championships due to an insurance payment that Wever didn't make.

  • There has been an unorganized national movement to rid Panamanian baseball of Wever, and its most noteworthy figure has been former Pittburgh Pirates outfielder Omar Moreno, who once was the national baseball team's manager but was driven out by Wever. Although the US Embassy has generally avoided overt interference in Panamanian politics, one of the exceptions has been that it has shunned Wever and boosted the baseball activities of the Omar Moreno Foundation. (In this stance, the US government has been joined by Major League Baseball, which may have been offended most of all by
  • Wever's racist comments about another former national team manager, Roberto Kelly.)

And now Ricardo Martinelli has appointed Omar Moreno to head Pandeportes, the government's sports organization, which owns most of the sports facilities in this country.

So does this presage a baseball revolution? The International Olympic Committee takes a dim view of governments interfering in sports federations under its purview, but FEDEBEIS is a PRD dependency, the product of political manipulations during the dictatorship.

Moreno would have the power to kick FEDEBEIS off of most of the nation's baseball diamonds and in any confrontation with Wever he'd have strong public support."

  • top photo from La Prensa, 2007

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