Last-minute flap over visas for 120 in Cuban delegation briefly threatens ballgame

State Department staff agrees to work overtime

cancellation averted

May 02, 1999|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

A last-minute dispute over visas threatened tomorrow's Orioles-Cuba game yesterday. But after a late-night flurry of diplomatic activity, government officials involved in organizing the game and Orioles owner Peter Angelos said that the cancellation had been averted and that the game would go on.

Shortly after 7 p.m., Cuban officials threatened to pull out of the game because approximately 120 members of their 300-person delegation had not been granted visas. Officials with knowledge of the matter said that the Cubans' requests for visas had been filed late and that the State Department might not have time to process them all.

Cuban state television reported on the evening news last night that "as a result of differences that have arisen at the the last minute due to the delay in visas for all members of the delegation, it is possible that the departure may be delayed" or the game called off. The State Department also had concern about granting a visa to one member of the delegation, identified as Dr. Berna.

But the State Department agreed to have its visa staff work overtime to solve the matter, according to officials with knowledge of the matter. And the game was back on by 10 p.m.

"I'm aware that there are some complexities," Angelos said last night. "I have every confidence that the State Department will resolve whatever problems remain and that the game will go forward."

Last-minute maneuvering over visas and other issues has been an obstacle to preparations throughout the week. Ricardo Alarcon, the president of the Cuban National Assembly, had wanted to lead the Cuban delegation but withdrew last week after it appeared that the State Department would not grant him a visa.

Pub Date: 5/02/99

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