State Department Insists Time Ran Out for Latin Grammy Nominees

Miami, USA – Cuban musicians Ibrahim Ferrer, Chucho Valdes and Cuban group Los Van Van, three nominees for the September 3rd Latin Grammy Award show, are not expected to attend the Latin music inspired extravaganza, due to a visa snafu with the U.S. State Department.

Cuba’s Cultural Ministry stated that preparations for the musicians’ travel to Miami have been in the works since August 2nd, but last week the U.S. State Department has denied receiving the visa applications. The State Department insists that standard visa applications for Cubans traveling to the U.S. require a minimum of two months for processing due to a detailed investigation of each applicant. Because the U.S. government considers Cuba a state which sponsors terrorism, stricter rules are applied to Cubans who wish to come to the U.S. from Cuba, including those taking part in cultural exchanges.

This latest incident comes on the heels of increased efforts by the Bush administration to topple Cuban President Fidel Castro by intensifying international pressures on the country. Roger Noriega, the newly appointed assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs and a former Jesse Helms aide, is seeking assistance from Cuban dissident groups in Florida. The government’s plan is being called a democratic transition and not outright regime change.

Chucho Valdes is a nominee in the Best Latin Jazz Album category; Ibrahim Ferrer is nominated for Best Traditional Tropical Album; and Los Van Van is up for Best Contemporary Tropical Album.