Posted: Monday, November 14, 2022. 9:22 pm CST.
Photo Courtesy of Fitzgerald Joseph
By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Belize’s eight-man team that competed in the Pan American Masters Cycling Championship in Colombia are stranded in Colombia after Avianca personnel didn’t allow them to board their flight to Cancun, Mexico, earlier on Monday.
The Belize Masters Cycling team comprises Fitzgerald ‘Palas’ Joseph, Renan Matus, Phillip Burns, Roque Matus, Ryan Willoughby, Dwight Lopez, Robert Liam Stewart, and Michael Wagner Sr.
According to Joseph, who won a silver medal at the event, Colombian Immigration allowed them through but not the airline claiming that they didn’t have tickets to fly from Cancun to Belize and that they didn’t have Mexican visas.
“Immigration let us through, so when I spoke to the Immigration lady she said ‘I don’t know why Avianca stopped you,” said Joseph.
“She said she didn’t think the airline had that power because Immigration already sent you through. She said, ‘and you all are leaving Colombia; that should be something for Mexico.”
“The airline, dehn gaan an bad,” said Palas.
“She said we don’t have a visa. I said ‘We don’t need a visa to go to Mexico. We came to Colombia, and we don’t need a visa to come to your country.’”
Joseph said the eight travelled to Cancun by road, from there they went on to the Dominican Republic to compete in the Triple Cien race. Six of them went to the Dominican Republic via Miami and two via Panama. From Santo Domingo, all flew together to Bogota and to Barrancabermeja, where the Pan Am Championships were held, via Avianca. They all had return tickets to Cancun where they had left their cars to return to Belize at the Cancun International Airport.
Joseph said he contacted Foreign Minister Eamon Courtenay for assistance and after much back and forth, at the end of the day, when the plane had already left the airline gave them new tickets, put them up at a hotel, and told them that they would be allowed to travel on Tuesday.
“I said what was the reason for that then? You will put up eight people, you will feed them, hotel, you will pay all of that, and you will put them on the plane and send them to Belize. It would have been better if you had sent us just now,” Palas said he told the airline representatives.
He said if everything works out, the eight will fly to Cancun on Tuesday and then drive back to Belize.
Joseph said some concerned Colombians advised them to sue the company and that they had a good case because the company was embarrassing Colombia since they were there representing their country, Belize.
“If Cancun wouldn’t stop us, why would Avianca stop us?” Joseph said.
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