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Belize Masters Cycling Team back home safe after being delayed in Colombia

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2022. 10:10 am 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 and who were stranded in Bogota after Avianca personnel didn’t allow them to board their flight to Cancun, Mexico on Monday, arrived home safely in Belize City after midnight on Tuesday, November 16.

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 the airline refused to allow them to board their flight saying they didn’t have tickets to fly from Cancun to Belize and that they didn’t have Mexican visas.  Joseph said they explained that they had driven to Cancun, had parked their cars there, and would drive back to Belize on their return, but to no avail.

“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.’”

“Immigration let us through, so when I spoke to the Immigration lady she said ‘I don’t know why Avianca stopped you.

At the end of the day, after Joseph contacted Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Eamon Courtenay for assistance, after much back and forth, and when their flight had already left, Joseph said the airline gave them new tickets, put them up at a hotel, and told them that they would be allowed to travel on Tuesday.

They left yesterday, arrived in Cancun after 3:00 pm, and crossed the Mexico-Belize border after 9:30 pm.

Joseph said the eight had travelled to Cancun by road, from where they flew 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 then to Barrancabermeja, where the Pan Am Championships were held, via Avianca. They all had return tickets to Cancun where they had left their cars at the Cancun International Airport to drive back to Belize.

Joseph said he and the other Belizean cyclists were “tired and frustrated” after being kept back a whole day in Colombia.

“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 on Monday when they finally told them they would be allowed to travel on Tuesday.

Fortunately, they are all back home safely now.


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