This Copa America was always going to have a healthy dose of politics about it.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is the leader of Latin America’s left and perhaps the most virulent anti-American leader in the world today (he famously called George W. Bush the devil in a UN speech last year).
Chavez has spent a fortune preparing Venezuela for the tournament, building or renovating nine stadiums, more than any previous Copa America. But opponents accuse him of withholding tickets from the real fans to give to his political allies. Venezuelans complain that 70% of briefs for some games have been given to Chavez supporters.
However, that strategy backfired at the Argentina-US game on Thursday night in Maracaibo when Chavez’s opponents made their feelings plain, chanting “Freedom, Freedom” and “This government is going to fall.”
The fans also chanted “RCTV” the name of the opposition television station shut down by Chavez last month in one of the most controversial decisions of his nine-year reign.
It will be interesting to see if such feelings catch on in other grounds over the coming days.