Nicaragua: Costa Rican Tourists Lost over US $50,000

after being blocked from entering their neighboring country

Costa Rican tourists had organized the trip to Nicaragua since the beginning of the year. Photo: La Prensa/Courtesy

On Wednesday, May 24, Ortega regime functionaries denied entry to 96 Costa Rican tourists. The excursion’s organizer declares they were offered no explanations. He details their intended itinerary, stating: “We had no other intention than that of traveling and seeing the country.”

By La Prensa

HAVANA TIMES – Since the beginning of the year, Costa Rican Marcos Gomez had been planning an excursion that would take Costa Rican tourists to visit different sites in Nicaragua. A total of 96 people had signed up, most of them from the Costa Rican cantons of Cartago, Desamparados, Heredia and San Jose. The majority were retired senior citizens who just wanted to enjoy a vacation in Nicaragua.

However, at noon on Wednesday, May 24, when the Costa Rican tourists arrived at the Peñas Blancas border post aboard two buses, the Nicaraguan immigration authorities, under orders from the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, denied them entry into the country. The immigration authorities’ only explanation was that the decision was for “reasons of security.”

In addition to the tension, discomfort, and confusion this group of tourists experienced, Gomez —who organized the excursion— is now concerned about the money they invested in the trip. This amount exceeds US $50,000, including money used for reservation payments at the hotels where they’d planned to stay for the five days and four nights that the tour would last, plus for expenses of the scheduled tours of Managua, Granada, Leon and Chinandega.

The itinerary that never happened

According to the excursion’s planned schedule, the group would arrive in Managua on Wednesday night, go straight to the city’s Salvador Allende recreational area for dinner, then spend the night at the Hilton and Holiday Inn hotels.

The next day (Thursday) they planned to leave Managua for Granada, to see the isletas, tiny islands that dot Lake Cocibolca, not far from the lakeshore city.  “We had arranged a tour of an hour and a half, using seven boats we’d hired and paid for,” said Gomez.

After that, they’d tour the center of Granada, then visit the municipality of Catarina where the organizers had made a reservation for lunch in a restaurant. Later in the afternoon, a visit to the Masaya market was planned.

The majority of the Costa Rican tourists who were denied entry into Nicaragua are retired seniors. Courtesy photo / La Prensa.

On Friday, they would visit the city of Leon, where 96 lunches had been ordered and prepaid at the Hotel El Convento. “From there, they’d tour the city, then move on to tour the Flor de Caña rum factory in Chinandega. Finally, on Saturday, the tourists would enjoy a relaxing day without many scheduled plans, only lunch once more at the Salvador Allende site and in the afternoon a visit to the Masaya volcano.

Finally, on Sunday, they’d see the San Juan River, “and from there, head to the border,” Gomez summarized.

Group leaders interrogated

This exact route was what Gomez described to the Immigration and Foreign Affairs authorities who held up the buses at the Peñas Blancas border post for over two hours, with no explanations. “Later, they asked to see the organizer. They took me into their offices and asked me what we were going to do, why, and to prove what we were coming for. It was like an interrogation, and several times I had to repeat the same thing regarding our reason for the trip. They also asked if we were going to have any meetings. We told them many times that we were tourists, that we were going as tourists,” Gomez manifested.

According to Gomez, all the travelers had their papers in order. “Fifteen days before the trip, we finalized the lists of all those in the buses, and their attendees. We sent these to the Nicaraguan government. All the participants had filled out the required online for 10 days before. The day before the trip, and again at 9 AM on Wednesday itself, I resent the lists. Despite all this, when we arrived at the border, the only answer we received from the [Nicaraguan] government representatives was that they wouldn’t allow us to enter for security reasons,” Gomez lamented.

Who will respond for the expenses?

Each of the 96 tourists had paid US $550 dollars for their hotel rooms, tours, and food, making a total investment of US $52,800.

“Everything was collected through payments, and now, we said, let’s go enjoy what we paid for. These tourists are retired professionals. I estimate that, in the end, the income that Nicaragua would have perceived was from US 80 to 100 thousand dollars – from consumer spending, shopping, because, I repeat, the majority of people who signed up were professionals, pensioners from our country, who were going to have a good time,” stated Gomez.

The organizer of the trip also regretted that people from Nicaragua who had been hired as tour guides and for other services also lost out on receiving a little extra income – “something that never hurts.”

“It’s difficult and painful, because we went with no other intention than to travel and see a new place. People were going to enjoy it,” he added.

Like the rest of the tourists, Gomez hopes “they’re going to return some of the money to us, but no one has guaranteed anything. You can imagine the stress I’m under, with people asking me: ‘What do I get back? How much” When?’ All questions I haven’t been able to respond to yet,” Gomez expressed anxiously.

Organizers to file a complaint with the Costa Rican foreign ministry

Gomez assured that everyone is familiar with the situation in Nicaragua, that they’ve denied entrance into the country to some foreigners, organizations and even to some Nicaraguans. “We’re not political, we’re good people, we’re coming as tourists. We never thought this could happen to us,” he remarked.

He also assured: “Some of the deputies in the [Costa Rican] Assembly are already aware of this. I, personally, as a citizen, am going to file a complaint with the foreign ministry and send a list of all of us where were there. I have this full right in my country, and I’ve learned to speak up about what I don’t like, and what affects me, and this has affected all of us.”

Jorge Rodriguez, Costa Rican Communications Minister, reported on Thursday, May 25, that they’d confirmed with the Nicaraguan authorities that the “non-authorization” order for entering the country had been issued because the activity the Costa Rican tourists were going to was “suspended”.

No free transit

In previous declarations to La Prensa, Carlos Murillo Zamora, professor at the University of Costa Rica specializing in international law and topics of integration, had already warned that this could happen [the Nicaraguan regime refusing entry into the country, even to many Costa Rican tourists]. He had also pointed out that, if so, the regime “doesn’t perceive that it would affect many tourist sites, because there’s a great deal of Costa Rican tourism.”

At the same time, he added: “it is difficult for a tourist who wants to enter the country to be denied entry without a reason. The country can deny entry to any foreigner, but generally, out of respect, they should offer some reason why not.” In his opinion, the argument of the Nicaraguan immigration authorities “isn’t valid.”

Jose Davila Membreño, a former Nicaraguan diplomat and political analyst, said denying nearly one hundred tourists entry into the country is “self-defeating” for the Ortega regime.

“It’s not only arbitrary and illegal, but this type of prohibition is abnormal. This case involved 96 peaceful Costa Ricans, who wanted to do tourism in Nicaragua, which one might think would be positive for the regime. People could have come out speaking well about Nicaragua and the regime, at a time when the country is isolated and internationally condemned for repression and serious violations of human rights, especially in the last five years,” noted Davila.

Ever more similar to North Korea

Davila reiterated: “This isn’t normal, rather it seems a step that brings us closer to North Korea, where there’s no open entry for tourists, only those allowed after investigating them and assuring they’re going to praise the regime, since they even have to go and bow before the statues of the dictators.”

“Doing this to citizens of a neighboring, free and democratic country is shocking and astounding. It shows that the prevailing dictatorship wants to hide something, that it doesn’t want tourists to see reality very closely, talk to people, hear complaints, etc. There’s already a restriction on anyone who wants to enter the country, with those forms they have to fill out before traveling. Now suddenly, right at a border, they disrupt the plans of tourists from a neighboring country. It’s simply unheard of. The crisis in Nicaragua is deepening, every day the regime gets blinder, they insist on considering themselves the owners of the country, which they also isolate,” Davila added.

On May 15, the regime’s immigration authorities also denied passage to a group of students from the Autonomous University of Honduras (UAH), who arrived at the Las Manos border post between Honduras and Nicaragua, to participate in an academic tour of the School of Economic Sciences of the University of Costa Rica (UCR). They were not allowed to pass through Nicaragua.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times

One thought on “Nicaragua: Costa Rican Tourists Lost over US $50,000

  • Wow. This is not good for tourism

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