Nicaragua's national baseball team, which was scheduled to play six California teams and meet with Irvine Mayor Larry Agran, postponed its arrival in the United States because two officials traveling with the team could not get U.S. visas, an organizer of the tour said Thursday.
Danilo Aguirre, an official of the Nicaraguan Amateur Baseball Assn. and member of that country's National Assembly, was denied a U.S. visa, according to Guy Benjamin, director of Athletes United for Peace in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Benjamin called the visa denial for Aguirre, who was to head the sports delegation, "political." As a member of the Nicaraguan congress, Aguirre represents a Marxist government which the United States is battling via aid to rebels known as contras.
"This kind of political problem between the two countries is exactly why . . . my organization exists," Benjamin said. "We try to promote friendship and understanding amongst the people of the world."
A second official, who United Press International identified as Rolando Cerda, sub-director of the Nicaraguan Sports Institute, was to take Aguirre's place. But he too was denied a visa.
Failed to Comply
In the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, U.S. Embassy spokesman Al Laun said in a statement that the sports officials "failed to comply" with procedures for obtaining a visa and "held off applying until it was too late to process their applications."
He said in one case, apparently that of Cerda, the application was not received until 3 p.m. Wednesday for travel that was to take place Thursday.
"There is no reason why it should interfere with the games," Laun said in the statement. "All players and coaches handled their visa request in a timely manner and have received their visas. They can travel immediately and play scheduled games."
However, Cerda told United Press International that the team cannot go without a sports official. He said he would reapply for a visa and the team may try to travel next week.
"It is regrettable that sports and politics get mixed up," Cerda said. "Nicaragua has been open to sports delegations from other countries."
U.S. Embassy officials in Managua have to clear with Washington the visas for some members of the leftist Sandinista Party and some Nicaraguan government officials.
Restrictions also exist for travel to California by some Nicaraguans, a "reciprocal" measure taken by the Reagan Administration after the Nicaraguan government put restrictions on travel by American officials to Nicaragua's eastern coast.
Whether Cerda or another official planned to travel with the team was unclear late Thursday. But both Benjamin, a former National Football League quarterback, and Andy Liberman, of a Los Angeles group called Bats, Not Bombs, said Thursday evening that Nicaraguan Ambassador Carlos Tunnemann and his wife assured them that the team would arrive on the next available flight, which is Monday.
Because of the delay, the Nicaraguans will miss games with Sacramento City College scheduled for today and with the University of San Francisco on Saturday, Benjamin said.
Games against Cal State Long Beach, Santa Monica City College at UCLA and the College of the Canyons in Valencia will continue as planned, Liberman said.
Irvine Mayor Agran said earlier this week that he plans to welcome the Seleccion Nacional, Nicaragua's all-star squad, to "extend a hand of friendship and break down those barriers of distrust."