Pirates players wearing 'Freedom for Venezuela' shirts to show support

A group of Pittsburgh Pirates players are wearing T-shirts that read, "Freedom for Venezuela" amid the country's battle over humanitarian aid.

Catcher Francisco Cervelli is leading the effort to raise awareness for the crisis in his native country.

"There have been 20 years of dictatorship in my country, and it's time for it to stop," Cervelli told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "They're trying to stop the aid. We are fighting to get aid to our people. Our people are dying. The army doesn't want to let them get in. So we are fighting. Our people need freedom. We have been fighting for this for a long time."

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro is resisting the entry of food and medical supplies into the country, saying the efforts are part of an international effort to undermine him after the U.S. and 50 other countries last month recognized Juan Guaido, the leader of the country's opposition party, as its interim president.

Hundreds have been injured in recent confrontations at barricades near Venezuela's borders with Colombia and Brazil.

First baseman Jose Osuna was among the Pirates to wear one of the T-shirts before their spring training opener against the Philadelphia Phillies.

"We are wearing these shirts for a reason," Osuna told the Post-Gazette. "We want aid to come into the country. We need to let our loved ones back home know that we are supporting them and paying attention to what is going on. There are a lot of people dying. There are children dying. There's nothing down there. Babies need food."

Other Venezuelans in Pirates camp include pitchers Felipe Vazquez and Elvis Escobar, catcher Elias Diaz and bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade.

"It's important that we use our platform to bring attention to this cause," Osuna said. "We have to continue our fight to help our people back home."

Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio also tweeted about the situation in his native Venezuela on Saturday, praying for aid to be allowed to cross the border.

"In this crucial moment for our beloved country, I ask God and my Chinita to help with the entry of the peaceful and humanitarian aid for the people in need," Aparicio wrote. "I support this noble cause. We are well, with God and la Chinita we will be well."