Fifteen Venezuelan boxers weren't able to reach the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games' play-offs in Mexico due to an international U.S.-led plot to isolate the Bolivarian country, hurting the nation's youth.
The sanctions, promoted by the United States and its right-wing 'Lima Group' allies, are intended to target Venezuela's political leaders, but in reality they affect the entire Venezuelan population, ultimately disrupting development opportunities even in non-political activities such as boxing.
An anonymous source spoke to news outlet Panorama earlier this week about the problems the boxing federation and the government faced trying to send the delegation to Mexico.
“A month ago, when we did the tender among several travel agencies, we got it at US$300 per person in the most affordable company. Then we handed in the list to reserve 24 seats then when the company realized it was the Venezuelan Boxing Federation, prices immediately went up to 570 dollars per person,” said the source.
The source claims the budget was approved despite the price rise, but the travel agency soon said they wouldn't transfer the accomodation, transportation and catering money to Mexico on grounds they were afraid the transaction could be blocked for being a large sum of money coming from Venezuela.
The federation then had to look for an alternative and, with Russian help, managed to do a Euro deposit to the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico, a transaction that took longer than normal having Venezuela's name on it.
But the same travel agency that got the original tender was now offering the plane tickets for US$2,100 per person, on top of only offering 15 seats that were now left.
Then the Sports Minister Pedro Infante, the President of the Venezuelan Olympic Committee Eduardo Alvarez and the President of the Venezuelan Boxing Federation Elvis Sanchez, along with members of the Sports Ministry, called President Nicolas Maduro for help.
“By the president's (Nicolas Maduro) orders, the Republic's Presidency started talks with the Cuban Aviation airline, but they weren't authorized by Mexico to transport non-Cuban athletes into Mexican territory,” said the source.
Infante talked to a private company on behalf of President Maduro about the possibility of a charter flight for the athlethes and was given a positive response. However, the flight was denied permission from Colombia, Panama and Mexico to use their airspace.
Just five hours before the weigh-in, the deadline for the boxing competition, the Venezuelan government approved the use of the presidential plane to take the delegation into Mexico as a last minute solution, but Mexican authorities said they wouldn't provide any special guarantee and would treat the flight as a commercial one which led the Venezuelan delegation to give up on participating all together.
“Under these circumstances, regardless of our intentions to defend our national flag in a championship, no country will accept such rules imposed on it because that would mean facing a high-risk situation. We therefore gave up on traveling,” the Venezuelan source lamented.
Opposition media blamed the People's Power Ministry for Youth and Sports for “not acquiring the tickets for the athletes, even though the Boxing Federation demanded them since February 20,” but facts say the very sanctions the opposition lobbied for are the ones that actually prevented the boxing delegation from attending the play-offs.
Elvis Sanchez, President of the Venezuelan Boxing Federation, said “the country must know that we're being attacked in all areas by the empire, and sports, boxing, are not exempt from this. The economic war and the blockade are charging at out national teams.”
The Central American and Caribbean Games 2018 will take place in Colombia from July 19 to August 3. Venezuela's boxing team has participated 18 times in the games and are the second team with most medals, holding 101, just behind Cuba's 139 medals.
Venezuela's boxing team will not participate this year in the games, but the 15 boxers are already preparing for the World Series and the South American Games, coming later this year.