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Pitcher: Visa granted by Nicaragua expired

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- New York Yankees pitcher Jose Contreras
says his family was barred from leaving Cuba, the newspaper La Prensa reported Monday.

Contreras told the newspaper that Cuban officials had twice
refused permission for his wife Miriam Murillo to go to Nicaragua
and that she would have to wait four years before applying again.

He told La Prensa that Nicaragua had given a visa to his wife
and daughters Naylan, 11, and Naylenis, 3, but that it had expired.

Contreras was a star with the Cuban national baseball team
before defecting and signing with the Yankees in December 2002.

He has legal residence in Nicaragua, though he also has a house
in Tampa, Fla. He spoke to the newspaper at a hotel in Managua.

"While they call me a traitor, I don't feel that I'm a
traitor," Contreras told La Prensa. "I have not committed any
offense, any crime. I took the decision to leave the island. It was
a personal decision, and my daughters and my wife should not have
to pay any price. They aren't guilty of anything, even if any guilt
exists.

"For eight years, I gave my best for my country and now they
treat me this way. I'm not a politician. I'm a sportsman, and if my
country had treated me better, I would not be here, I'd be in
Cuba."