The Drama of the 6,000 Cuban Migrants in Costa Rica

The Other Side of the Thaw

By Ernesto Ramirez e Isaac Risco

Cubans in Costa Rica shortly after they were violently expelled from Nicaragua under orders of President Daniel Ortega, an ally of the government of Raul Castro. Photo:
Cubans in Costa Rica shortly after they were violently expelled from Nicaragua under orders of President Daniel Ortega, an ally of the government of Raul Castro. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — A year after Washington and Havana made history by announcing the beginning of a thaw between the two nations, thousands of Cubans face uncertain days in Central America, reported dpa news on Wednesday.

To a certain extent, the migratory crisis is the other side of the diplomatic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, which has given rise to huge expectations throughout the region since December 17, 2014.

“I haven’t seen any changes in Cuba. A year after the thaw, everything is still the same or worse,” Luis Roberto Perez, a Cuban engineer stranded on Costa Rica’s northern border with Nicaragua, tells DPA.

“That’s why we’re seeing this avalanche of migrants heading towards the United States,” Perez believes. “Our families and friends encourage us and tell us not to go back, that things are worse there every day,” he claims.

“Just look at how more people are leaving after they re-established relations,” Lissete Murgado adds. “I believe Cuba’s economic situation should have changed, that there should be more trade and more concrete developments, Murgado says, explaining how her expectations regarding the rapprochement with Washington were frustrated.

Some 6,000 Cubans are now stranded in Costa Rica and unable to continue on the dangerous land journey towards the United States, and this number is growing every week. “We’re the victims,” Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis tried to explain this Tuesday in Havana in connection with the crisis.

Solis was referring to the US laws that afford Cubans migratory benefits, but his words could also accurately describe the circumstances in which the Costa Rican government has been left to its own resources with regards to the humanitarian crisis on its border.

Over recent months, thousands of Cubans traveled to Ecuador legally to try and reach the United States by land, apparently fearing that Washington will soon repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act, after the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Havana.

The 1966 act and the so-called “wet foot / dry foot” policy, in effect since 1995, allow Cubans to easily secure US permanent residency, even if they reach the country illegally.

Even though the Barack Obama administration denies rumors that the law is going to change, these have spread quickly across the socialist island, and they are clearly behind the wave of immigrants that have flooded Ecuador in recent months. Ecuador had not required a visitor’s visa before December 1, when it changed its policy.

The current crisis was sparked off after Costa Rican police dismantled a network of “coyotes” (people traffickers) crossing the country on November 10. This left thousands of Cubans arriving in the country from Colombia and Panama (and hoping to continue on their way through Mexico, to reach the United States) stranded.

Many of them gathered at Costa Rica’s border control point of Paso Canoas, on the border with Panama, to demand passage. Costa Rica granted them temporary visas but Nicaragua – and then Guatemala and Belize – refused to grant them passage through their territories over the following weeks.

“I feel betrayed,” Solis declared in Havana. The Costa Rican leader calls on the other Central American nations to allow the migrants to pass through their territories.

On Tuesday, Solis availed himself of a visit to the island that had been previously planned to speak directly with Raul Castro about the situation and to try and find a solution to the crisis. Rather than request the repatriation of the Cubans, it is believed the Costa Rican president wants his Cuban counterpart to convince his ally, Nicaragua, to open its borders.

“The destination of migrants who have been crossing Central America in recent years is the United States, not Cuba,” Solis explained. In recent weeks, several regional meetings where the Costa Rican government attempted to secure support from neighboring countries failed.

Analysts such as John McAuliff, executive director of the US Fund for Reconciliation and the Development of Cuba, believe that, in the long run, the Obama administration will have to consider amending the Cuban Adjustment Act.

“He will realize that, if this doesn’t happen, he will have people taking to Central America month after month,” McAuliff told DPA. The analyst believes that, in its latest declarations, Washington has not been as categorical in its refusal to suspend the law. “I believe they are preparing the terrain for talks on the matter,” he stated.

4 thoughts on “The Drama of the 6,000 Cuban Migrants in Costa Rica

  • The US economy is currently among the most stable economies in the world. Check your facts. Once again, the US is not at fault for these Cubans being stranded in Costa Rica. That blame belongs to Nicaragua. Likewise, the US is not to be blamed for these Cubans leaving Cuba in the first place. That blame belongs to the Castros. Of course I have compassion for their suffering and that of their families. That’s one of the reasons I am so dedicated a commenter to Havana Times. The sooner democracy and freedom come to Cuba and the Castros leave, the better for all Cubans around the world.

  • Moses, you have failed to surprise me by your comments. Why should Cubans enjoy this wet foot/ dry foot immigration policy and no other country can enjoy it, not even those who live under the worst forms of Dictatorship in the world? It was a foreign policy intended to bleed Cuba of its best trained personnel; but the bible admonished us that, when we are digging a hole for our enemy, we must always dig two of them- one for the enemy and one for our self. That policy has backfired now. The thing about life, Moses, is that we cannot see tomorrow; we do not know what tomorrow holds for us. It therefore behoves us to do good today so that, that we could encounter that good tomorrow. If we perform evil deeds, that is what we will encounter tomorrow. The evil deed that America planned for the downfall of the 1959 Cuban Revolution yesterday is catching up with it today, which is its tomorrow. It is not that things are hard in Cuba, for things are also very hard in America after the collapse of its economy in 2008. Do not switch the blame. The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the Great America which used all kinds of subterfuge to destroy the Cuban Socialist Pathway of Development. This subterfuge has now caught up with it. In referring to the Bible again, it says, “Be ye sure that your sins will find you out: you reap just what you sow!” And look at the situation keenly, Moses. Human traffickers are fleecing these unfortunate souls to take them to the Promised Land of America! How many of them would die, with no tombstone to mark where they departed to the great beyond? There is no refund from the human trafficker, for he has demanded payment up front. You make it, you make it and lucky for you! Are you not touched by these atrocities Moses, is there one mustard seed of compassion in your heart, your very soul for these unfortunate, hoodwinked Cubans, other than to present Cuba in a negative light? Since it is America which initiated the crisis, why does it not display its Human Rights concern for these stranded Cubans by sending a ship for them rather than allowing them to be fleeced by these unscrupulous human traffickers or ending up in unmarked graves? What about the families in Cuba who would know nothing of their fate or the expectant family in the USA who will never be able to greet them? Do Good Moses!! What a catastrophe the United States has created in its determination to eradicate the Socialist Revolution of Cuba?

  • What a surprise to see, as if by coincidence, John McAuliff is using the Cuban migrant crisis as an argument for ending the Cuban Adjustment Act. That’s the same message Raul Castro is sending and yet more evidence this latest migrant crisis is another Mariel Boat Lift, a horrible human tragedy cynically manipulated by the Castro’s to advance their diplomatic agenda.

  • Ironic that John McAuliff would expect the US to change. These 6000 Cubans didn’t leave Cuba because the US needs to change. They left Cuba because Cuba has FAILED to change. John, like so many apologists for the Castro dictatorship, expects nothing from the Castros and everything from the US.

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