Cuban migrants at a makeshift shelter on the Costa Rica – Nicaragua border
By Sergio Valdivieso (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — A reasonable solution to the migratory crisis sparked off by the thousands of Cubans stranded in Central America finally came into view this past Monday, thanks to a political mediation process headed by Costa Rica and its president, Luis Guillermo Solis.
“We agreed to conduct the first, pilot humanitarian transportation exercise in the first week of January. A work team has been assembled to make the arrangements needed for this first transfer,” the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry announced in an official communiqué. A more detailed version of this announcement was offered by the Costa Rican government, which has shown abundant signs of patience, tenacity and transparency in response to the Cuban migrants who became stranded in the country on November 15.
The measures agreed to during the meeting of the Central American Integration System (SICA) will make the launching of the “pilot plan” possible in January and allow for the transportation of the migrants from Costa Rica to El Salvador by air, from where they will be bused to Mexico and allowed to continue towards the United States, their final destination. The first flight under the pilot plan appears to be set for January 6, and will include 250 migrants.
The Cubans Will Purchase Their Tickets
The air bridge to El Salvador is required because Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega refuses to grant the Cubans passage, having militarized his country’s southern border. The migrants will be required to pay for their tickets.
In the communiqué, Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez stressed that “this solution is absolutely exceptional” and aimed only at the close to 8,000 Cubans currently in Cost Rica holding transit visas. That is to say, it is meant as a provisional bridge and not a permanent route for Cuban migrants.
At first glance, the solution appears to benefit all parties.
Costa Rica has taken in the Cuban migrants, set up shelters and negotiated an agreement for their transfer, but no longer has the capacity or resources to continue receiving migrants. This is why its government made the decision to close up its southern border to Cubans and to deport 56 of them who entered the country after December 18.
Benefits for the Cuban Government
Panama has taken in 756 Cubans and does not want to encourage an avalanche of migrants following the implementation of visa requirements by Ecuador.
The Cuban government has turned this crisis into the spearhead of its international campaign calling for the elimination of the Cuban Adjustment Act and, more importantly, the suspension of the special program for medical doctors who chose to abandon their international missions, which conspires against the country’s revenues. The systematic coverage of these developments offered by Cuba’s official press, following an initial silence, is curious, as is the fact Cuban authorities have asked, at the last minute, for a “quick” and “adequate” solution to the crisis sparked off by nationals fleeing from the paradise of Raul Castro’s reform process.
Cuban migrants may well fulfil their dream of reaching US soil to reunite with their relatives, or of settling in a country with greater opportunities and requesting financial aid.
The arrival of this wave of migrants at the US border is a phenomenon Washington observes from a distance and cannot enthusiastically welcome. If the migratory agreements signed with Cuba in 1995 were established to make immigration “legal, safe and orderly,” this new flood of immigrants arriving by land may be “safe and orderly”, but it is in no way legal. At the very least, it is “irregular”, to use the euphemism with which the Department of Homeland Security prefers to describe the phenomenon.
The Migratory Crisis Clock
At any rate, the United States must take in all “irregular Cuban migrants” who arrive at its border and grant them residency on the basis of its own regulations, something which ends up eroding the credibility of its migratory policies.
If we regard the situation through eyes other than Washington’s, the agreement reached by the representatives of SICA member countries, Mexico and the International Organization for Migrations (OIM) is an example of what can be achieved through regional cooperation, and despite Daniel Ortega’s impertinence. The last was the second technical meeting held by SICA to address the issue, after a failed encounter held on December 22.
Fifty years after Cuba’s Camarioca exodus and the “Freedom Flights,” Cuba’s migratory crisis clock continues to operate perfectly as an escape and decompression valve. If the gates of Central America were ultimately closed, Cubans would continue looking for alternatives in the hopes of a life outside the island, with or without the Cuban Adjustment Act.