Behind Ortega’s Plan to Admit Cubans Without a Visa

One of the July 11, 2021 protests in Cuba. Photo: Marcos Evora

Cuban journalist Reynaldo Escobar speaks of the possible reasons behind the Ortega regime’s announcement to exempt Cubans from all visa requirements, and the Cuban population’s enthusiastic response.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The Nicaraguan regime of Daniel Ortega recently announced the establishment of an open admission policy for Cuban citizens who wish to enter Nicaragua. His decision that Cuban citizens no longer need a visa has caused great excitement on the island, even though Cuban president Miguel Diaz Canel has of yet issued no statement on the matter. At present, direct flights between Managua and Havana are still suspended due to the pandemic.

Reinaldo Escobar, news editor of the Cuban digital site 14yMedio, explains that the news “has caused a great impact” and provoked “a lot of discussion”. As of today, Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations hasn’t said anything about Nicaragua’s decision, nor has anything appeared in the official government media. “No one has announced: ‘We’ve made an agreement with Nicaragua’”. Their silence “makes it seem” that the Cuban regime wasn’t consulted.

“This is symptomatic of something. Obviously, the government of Daniel Ortega – a close friend of the Cuban government – wouldn’t take a step of this nature without having consulted [with his counterparts on the island]. The fact that the [Cuban] government is covering up, or at least not divulging, this bilateral relation is striking,” Escobar commented. He made these comments during an interview broadcast on the online television news program Esta Noche, which is transmitted on YouTube due to the censorship imposed by the Nicaraguan regime.

Escobar feels that the announcement from Nicaragua, followed by the silence from Cuba, “is a set-up the two rulers have agreed upon.” He believes that their methods have several intentions, among them adding fuel to the migrant crisis on the US southern border. That way, they hope to force the Biden administration to open a channel for negotiating with Cuba.

Relieve the political tension

Nicaragua’s visa-less entry program for Cubans could also be related to the large protests that rocked Cuba on July 11th. These amounted to “a trauma for the Cuban rulers,” stated Escobar. During these protests, hundreds of Cubans went out on the street demanding civil rights, freedom, and even an end to the dictatorship. Conceivably, the Cuban government is trying to relieve the political pressure.

The Cuban regime knows “that [the protests] were not organized by anyone in the United States,” but were “absolutely and totally spontaneous,” the journalist believes. Hence, while the conditions that triggered the social explosion continue, “they may be fearful it could happen again.” The visa-free entry into Nicaragua constitutes an “escape valve” to lower the pressure.

“They [the Diaz Canel regime] need some of the people with the capability of leading such a protest to channel their energy into leaving the country. Instead of using that resolve, that self-esteem to organize a protest, they can go find a place where they can feel happy, a competitive destination that isn’t – in truth – Cuba,” stressed Escobar.

The open visa to Nicaragua “didn’t fall from the sky,” or “coincidentally occur to Nicaragua by decree,” noted Escobar. It “was programmed, studied, and intentionally decided on by the government,” he added.

Wave of emigration expected

Meanwhile, the island residents’ enthusiasm about traveling to Nicaragua is clear to the well-known journalist. However, he also recognized that “the possibilities of massive travel are going to be limited by the airlines’ seating capacity.” At present, there are no direct flights between Havana and Managua, already a cause for protest on the island.

Currently, only Panama-based Copa Airlines has resumed flights to Cuba, connecting the island with Panama City. Those interested in traveling to Nicaragua need to make a stopover in that country.

Looking ahead, Reinaldo Escobar stated that the Nicaraguan authorities should grant some kind of protection to migrants. Once the air connections between both countries is reestablished, he foresees a migratory wave of Cubans intending to continue on towards the United States.

“This could provoke a pretty complex situation. The hotels won’t have enough space, nor the guest houses. It could be an explosion, and the Nicaraguan government will have the responsibility of resolving this issue,” the Cuban journalist highlighted.

In addition to Cubans who see in the visa-free entry into Nicaragua an opportunity to emigrate to the United States, there are also groups of merchandise traffickers on the island. These vendors, known as “mules”, see the announcement as an opportunity to travel and bring back and resell products that aren’t obtainable in Cuba.

“The fact that Nicaragua isn’t demanding an entry visa will allow some [island residents], who receive money from relatives outside the country, to use this money to travel to Nicaragua and buy products. They can then sell them [at a profit] in Cuba,” Escobar explained.

The “mules” are frowned on by the Communist regime. However, they do the job “that a commercial enterprise would normally do. Or, in the case of Cuba, what the Ministry of Foreign Trade should be doing: importing products to sell in Cuba,” detailed Escobar. Currently, “there’s an urgent need” on the island for people to import merchandise and sell it internally.

As a result, the regime turns a blind eye to the mules’ business activities. “Instead of legally authorizing them in a formal way, they allow people to go to Nicaragua, and they establish some type of undeclared Customs flexibility.” That lets them satisfy some of the population’s needs, “without the State having to invest a cent in that operation.” In addition, “they can charge taxes for bringing items through Customs,” Reinaldo Escobar concluded.

Read more interviews from Nicaragua and Cuba here on Havana Times.

6 thoughts on “Behind Ortega’s Plan to Admit Cubans Without a Visa

  • Cuba a nation built by European immigrants and the blood and sacrifice of African slaves has become since 1959 a nation of emigrants looking to live anywhere. Here a video of Cubans refugees in Greece.

  • Curt – you are correct with your definition of insanity.
    Doing the same useless sh*t over and over again.
    What’s more, the same useless sh*t which is condemned by the rest of the world.
    Regarding Olga’s ‘act of war’ comment??
    Christmas is coming. Maybe Santa is gonna bring Olga some OBJECTIVITY?
    The invasion attempt at Playa Giron was an act of war.
    What are you talking about Olga?

  • If it takes a massive migration of Cubans in order for the US to negotiate with Cuba, then bring them on. The Biden Administration should have gotten rid of Trump’s cruel sanctions and gone back to Obama’s policy the minute Biden took office. Instead Biden let himself be influenced by Senator Bob Menendez and the other goons in Congress who are of Cuban descent. Instead the US is continuing the confrontational policy, which hasn’t worked in 60 years. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again.

  • In Cuba nothing changes. I have just arrived from there and discrimination against Cubans is so evident one cannot believe it. At first Cubans are separated in the airport and a PCR test is performed on them as tourists walk by Customs. This process is supposed to be ‘aleatorio’. Then the stores of goods are only in hard currency which is only available to those from other countries. If a Cuban wants to change pesos for any hard currency they must go to the black market at risk of having their money confiscated. If you complain at the airport for the discriminatory practice a group of ‘workers’ forms with the purpose of intimidating the complaining party… So if you value your rights, stop helping the ‘malign revolution’ by visiting the country.

  • I hope USA takes this as an act of war Enough!

  • Reinaldo Escoba is an interesting guy. Obviously he is the husband of Yoani Sanchez. Although the article doesn’t mention this. But why should it.
    There are various different types in ‘the opposition’.
    For example: There are those who are known to take significant dollar from the USA. There are those who most definitely do not queue up at the U.S. Embassy once a month for their 30 pieces of silver.
    My recollection regarding Reinaldo is that when asked a straight question on the matter he gave a cagey non straight answer. In other words a politician’s answer.
    The quotes within this article which are attributed to him are interesting. Migration is many things. Including being a political tool. The USA used migration from Cuba as a political tool. They gave Cuban migrants a golden status over and above the migrants of any other American country because it was politically expedient to do so.
    On the other hand Fidel Castro played the game too. He used migration as a way of emptying prisons and alleviating pressure at certain moments.
    I knew a guy who the cops could never pin down but when Mariel occurred, he was picked up by the plain-clothes and dropped off at the boat lift and given a kick in the pants and told to never set foot in Cuba again. Sadly he is now deceased. God rest his crazy old soul. He never went back. Last time I spoke to him he wasn’t convinced that it was safe to do a visit back. I told him he’d be fine coz times had changed but he never went back. But to this day he is still spoken about in the Havana neighbourhood he previously graced with his presence.
    Migration is used as a political tool far and wide. Here in the U.K. where I reside, it is used as a political tool by politicians on a regular basis. It is a political football.
    But within that there are myriad human stories of people searching for a better life in a grotesquely unequal world. And people who are trying desperately to get back together with family members.
    I respect Yoani and Reinaldo. They live in Havana and have built up their media outlets despite the huge difficulties they have encountered.
    They don’t leave. They choose not to. This should be respected.
    Looking at his picture it reminds me of the fact that my compatriots the Rolling Stones did a show in Havana a few years back. If he wished to leave Cuba, I reckon looking at his photo, Reinaldo coulda slipped on to the private jet with Mick and Keith and no-one woulda noticed.

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