Cruelty at the Border: Ortega Blocks Entry to Stranded Nicaraguans

The Nicaraguans have been stuck in between Costa Rica and Nicaragua for up to ten days.
The Ortega government turns a deaf ear to their desperate situation.

By Cinthya Torrez Garcia (La Prensa)

HAVANA TIMES – A sizable group of Nicaraguans are caught in a desperate and penniless situation in a reduced area that has been cordoned off on the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The group, which began arriving at the Penas Blancas port of entry on July 18, now numbers some 500 people.

For ten days, they’ve been unable to bathe, and are sleeping in squalid and crowded conditions in improvised shelters of black plastic. They’re tired and their cries of despair are ever more frequent. The Ortega regime has not only blocked their entrance into the country, but has also refused access to a Nicaraguan Human Rights group that arrived to verify their situation and provide some assistance.

With each day that passes, the humanitarian crisis of these Nicaraguan migrants stranded in the doorway to their country has sharpened. The regime demands that they present a negative test for COVID-19, but in a single voice they clamor that they don’t have the means to pay for a test, since they’re out of work and have had to spend the little money they had during the days of waiting on the dirty cement, that sizzles during the day and becomes damp with the chill at night.

Pablo Cuevas, legal adviser for the Permanent Human Rights Commission (CPDH), was part of a team that attempted to reach the zone where the migrants are stranded. However, when they reached the gates of the Nicaraguan Immigration Office at the border and requested permission to speak with the director about the reasons for denying the group entry, riot squad agents formed a blockade and wouldn’t let them in.

The situation of the stranded Nicaraguans has inspired the solidarity of Costa Rican NGOs such as Corner of Love, as well as the Red Cross and the Public Security Forces. These groups have distributed food and water to them, while the Nicaraguan riot squads keep them fenced off to avoid their blocking the passage of transport trucks. 

Days previous, the migrants had formed a human wall across the highway into Nicaragua as a tactic to pressure the government into resolving their situation. As yet, they’ve received no information whatsoever from the officials at Penas Blancas.

Pablo Cuevas explained that the CPDH group on the Nicaraguan side would like to pass over to where the group is being held, but that the police kept them from doing so. They consider this yet another abuse. Cuevas noted that Article 31 of Nicaragua’s Constitution indicates: “Nicaraguans have the right to move around and set up residence in any part of the national territory; and to enter and leave the country freely.” He states that everything done by the authorities should reflect these established principles.

In addition, Pablo Cuevas recalled that the stranded Nicaraguans are part of the hundreds of thousands who have left their country to seek better opportunities and to help their families; as a result, they help the country by sending back remittances.

Tanya Amador, founder of the NGO “Corner of Love”, called the situation “deplorable”, since for days there’s been no change. They’ve had to put up with rain, and all of their wet clothes must be put out to dry the next day. There are children, pregnant women, and elders who aren’t receiving adequate attention.

The NGO has provided two meals a day for some four hundred people. This has been their way of contributing and trying to help. She also emphasized that many of the Nicaraguans are undocumented, some lost their refugee status while others were in the middle of processing their requests when they decided to return to Nicaragua.  All now find themselves in this critical situation.


“They’re leaving us to die here”

The internet news program 100% Noticias included today some comments from Nicaraguans trapped at the border who spoke with reporters from the Voice of America.

“They’re totally leaving us to die here. It seems like the only way we’re going to get out is in plastic [body] bags,” stated one migrant desperately, who declined to use his real name.

“With the weather conditions, the sun and the rain, the strength that one had, the life force, is already deteriorating little by little: our energy, our health, our immune systems. We’re weak, tired of being sleepy, hungry, thirsty. We don’t know how long we’re going to be here.”

A youth named Elvin Herrera pleaded for respectful treatment for the Nicaraguan immigrants wishing to return. Herrera left San Jose, Costa Rica, over seven days ago. The lack of work due to the pandemic caused him to decide to return to his native Nicaragua.

“They need to treat us respectfully as Nicaraguans, without politicizing the situation. This isn’t a political party or a political movement. It’s the need to get ahead with their families that drives every Nicaraguan who emigrates.”

Dr. Maria Jiron of the Costa Rican branch of the NGO “Unified Nicaraguan Medical Association” noted: “There’s only one bathroom for over 400 people. From a medical point of view, this can’t be. They have nowhere to bathe; these people have now gone a week without bathing.”

Jiron continued: “All the conditions are present for an epidemic to break out, not only speaking of COVID-19, but any other type of epidemic, since it’s rainy season and there are a lot of mosquitos here.”