By Humberto Galo (La Prensa)
HAVANA TIMES – Since February, hundreds of Cubans currently in Montevideo, seeking to travel to Nicaragua for “tourism” purposes are accusing the Nicaraguan embassy of scamming them, after they were forced to buy plane tickets in order to get a visa. Now the embassy has been closed down in this country, which has led to the Cubans taking to the street in protest.
[Editor’s note: Most Cubans traveling to Nicaragua use it as a trampoline to carry on their journey heading North. There are also Cubans who travel from Havana to Managua to buy goods that stock the illicit market on the island.]
According to articles in the Uruguayan press, the closure of the Nicaraguan Embassy in Montevideo wasn’t announced in time to the Cubans. They bought plane tickets to Managua, which cost between 500-1,000 USD per person.
On Copa Airlines’ website, flights are only available from Montevideo to Managua after June 1st.
LA PRENSA asked Nicaragua’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a written statement, via email sent to an address given by the official who answered the phone. No response has been received by the time of writing this article.
On February 10th, website ladiaria.com.uy reported that approximately 200 Cubans had been affected, however, according to other media platforms, the number of Cubans affected could even be so much as 1000.
“The Cubans say that they weren’t warned in time. That there were not any news reports about the embassy closing down. Many of them had already bought tickets to Nicaragua – where many Cubans usually travel to make a stop on their way to Cuba – as it was a requirement for getting a visa for Nicaragua. However, now they aren’t being allowed to travel,” the website published on this day.
Meanwhile, the cubanosenuruguay.com blog had announced, in early February, that the Nicaraguan Embassy had started asking for five requirements to grant tourist visas and for Cubans to travel to the Central American country, including buying a plane ticket.
In addition to paying 30 USD for the visa application, they would also have to present a certificate of good conduct in Uruguay, a COVID-19 vaccine certificate, the address of where they will be temporarily staying in Nicaragua and proof of their economic solvency.
However, the Nicaraguan Embassy stopped processing visa applications 15 days ago, and isn’t giving an answer to those who are demanding an explanation, the blog reported.
The last official statement made by Nicaraguan authorities came in early February, when the ambassador at the time, Emilia Torres, told Cubans that visa applications would have to be made online. However, one of the affected told ladiaria.com.uy that the link was disabled.
On the other hand, on March 4th, several Cubans affected by the measure held a protest in front of a travel agency’s office. The company had sold them plane tickets to Nicaragua, having paid almost 1000 USD.
According to Diario las Americas.com website, the Cubans are demanding a refund for the flights they bought to Nicaragua.
“If the ambassador hadn’t lied to us and told us that they weren’t going to process any more visas, we would have been fine, but they messed with other money. Emilia Torres told us in the embassy that we had to buy flights, and now there isn’t a solution for anything,” one of the affected travelers told the news website.
Nevertheless, Lylliam del Carmen Mendez Torres was named Nicaragua’s itinerant ambassador-at-large in Uruguay in early February. Her base is in Chile.
Mendez Torrez replaced Emilia Torres, and last week, the government officially recognized that she had presented her credentials to Chile.
This has made the tangled web of diplomatic bureaucracy a lot worse for Cuban migrants. They don’t have an institution they can direct their complaints to.