HAVANA – Just over a week before the start of the Americas Olympic qualifying tournament in Florida, the Cuban team does not have a visa to travel to the United States, athletes and officials said on Tuesday.
Managers and players have expressed concern over the lack of permits to attend the event even as they sought to obtain them in more than three countries. Sanctions imposed by Washington on the island make enforcement in Havana impossible.
“We don’t have pre-Olympic visas at the moment. Huge efforts have been made, ”Luis Daniel Del Risco, treasurer of the Cuban Baseball Federation, told The Associated Press. “We tried in Mexico, we tried in Panama, we tried to do it in Guyana.”
Finally, last week, the athletes and their managers presented the documentation to the United States Embassy in Cuba, whose consular area has been closed since 2017 by order of then-President Donald Trump. They have not yet received a response.
In response to a PA request to the State Department on Tuesday, US officials declined to provide information on baseball players, saying “visa records are confidential.”
The Cuban team have spent months training for the qualifying tournament in hopes of representing their country at this year’s Tokyo Olympics, team captain Frederich Cepeda said.
“It’s very sad what’s going on, we’ve been training for a long time,” said the outfielder during a training break. “It is a dream for us and for the Cuban people to obtain Olympic qualification … What we want is our right to play.”
The qualifying tournament runs from May 31 to June 5 and Cuba will be in Group B, where it will face baseball powers like Colombia and Venezuela as well as Canada.
If the Cubans can’t make the matches in Florida, they can try to qualify for the Taipei Olympics in June.
Cuban baseball executives say all athletes have been vaccinated against the coronavirus with two doses of Cuban’s own Soberana 02 vaccine and a booster dose of Soberana Plus.
Baseball returns to the Olympics this summer after a 13-year hiatus.
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