Bad relations between America and Cuba is expected to block a handful of Cuban musicians from attending tonight's (03SEP03) Latin Grammy Awards in Miami, Florida.

Among the stars unlikely to make the event are Latin jazz maestro CHUCHO VALDES and LOS VAN VAN, a group considered the Rolling Stones of salsa after 33 years' performing.

Los Van Van frontman JUAN FORMELL complains, "If Cuban athletes can compete in the United States, why can't we travel to the Grammy ceremony?"

Singer Ibrahim Ferrer, of Buena Vista Social Club fame and winner of two Latin Grammys, is also expected to miss the show, as US consular officials have not even interviewed him for a visa.

He says, "With my music I go anywhere I like, because I'm not a politician, just an artist who wants to show the musical culture of my country."

President Fidel Castro's communist government says American authorities have deliberately held up visas to bar the talented musicians from attending.

The hostilities, which date from the start of Castro's revolution in 1959, have plagued the Latin Grammys since organisers announced they were moving the second annual prizegiving in 2001 from Hollywood, California, to Miami.

That year, anti-Castro exiles said they would protest the presence of musicians from Cuba, whom they see as pawns of the Castro government.

Other Cuban nominees who may be absent are the popular CHARANGA HABANERA group, and guitarists Eliades Ochoa and MANUEL GALBAN.

03/09/2003 21:27