Cuban Immigrant Crisis Worsens in Costa Rica and Panama

Cubans stuck in Panama.
Cubans stuck in Panama.

HAVANA TIMES — The immigration crisis affecting Costa Rica and Panama following the arrival of a new wave of Cubans deepened today on their shared southern border with outbreaks of violence and a heavy police presence, reported dpa news.

On Thursday, more than a thousand Cuban immigrants who were stranded on the Panamanian side, along with a group of Africans, stormed by force the Costa Rican customs post of Paso Canoas, where they demanded transit permission to proceed to the USA, their final destination.

Some 200 Africans managed to evade the police presence and move on buses and other means to the border with Nicaragua, where they were rejected, as happened with the Cubans last November, when Managua closed its border to over a thousand migrants who attempted to cross into the country from Costa Rica.

Costa Rican immigration authorities deported the Africans who were stranded on its northern border by land back to Panama. At first the authorities of the neighboring country refused to receive them.

The police forces of the two countries reached an agreement on Friday allowing for the return to Panama of the Africans who had entered Costa Rica.

Over 2,000 Cubans and a couple hundred Africans have been stuck in Panama for several weeks.

Costa Rica President Luis Guillermo Solis spoke out on Thursday against the existence of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, by which the United States grants special immigration benefits to Cubans who leave the island and reach a US border by any means.

In November, a wave of some 8,000 Cubans, who were stranded for three months in Costa Rica, managed to reach the US after an agreement involving El Salvador and Mexico established an air bridge which allowed the Cubans to reach the US border where they were welcomed by the immigration authorities.

But the two countries said Tuesday at a regional meeting that they will not establish a similar mechanism to resolve the current crisis.

Costa Rica suspended transit visas for Cubans on December 19, and starting that same month Ecuador began requiring entry visas for Cubans arriving to that country.  Nonetheless, several thousand Cubans residing temporarily in Ecuador hope to make the journey north as soon as possible.

“It’s a very complex situation,” said an official with the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security.

In the case of the Cubans, most left legally many months ago to Ecuador, which until December was not asking for entry visas.

The thaw between Washington and Havana is causing fear among many Cubans that migratory preferences granted by the United States will be eliminated, which has encouraged emigration in recent months.

The Castro government and right wing US politicians, led by senator Marco Rubio, are pushing for the elimination or modification of the Act.  Meanwhile, the vast majority of the Cuban population on the island wants the benefits to remain.

Costa Rica reinforced its police presence Thursday on its side of the Paso Canoas border post, located some 300 kilometers from the capital San Jose, while the authorities in Panama sent a squadron of riot police to their side of the border.

2 thoughts on “Cuban Immigrant Crisis Worsens in Costa Rica and Panama

  • Obviously you are not an American. Your anti-US rhetoric belies the usual mix of envy and amazement. Despite all the doomsayers, the US remains the world’s leading economy and the most preferred destination for immigrants. There are a lot of valid criticisms American culture merits but “gutlessness” is far from one of them.

  • The sheer gutlessness of the American people to allow, decade after decade, special U. S. laws that grossly favor Cuban immigrants and grossly discriminate against all non-Cubans shames the U. S. democracy. Of course, a mere handful of right-wingers among the Cuban-American community as well as their self-serving right-wing sycophants in the U. S. Congress don’t give a damn. Prior to the Batista Banana Republic in Cuba fleeing the island and gaining traction on U. S. soil beginning in January of 1959, the U. S. democracy at least was respected around the world. Now the U. S. Cuban policy is disrespected by a 191-to-2 yearly UN vote, and that is a microcosm of how the world views the entire Cuban policy in the United States.. The transformation from a democracy to a Banana Republic can be mostly blamed, not on the self-serving right-wingers who benefit so much from it, but by the majority of Americans who care so little about their democracy that they meekly tolerate it. The Greatest Generation that steered the U. S. and the world through World War II would, I believe, be ashamed of the two U. S. generations since 1952. When ignorance and cowardice converge, what is there left to defend the democracy Americans were bequeathed and the democracy that so many Americans defended so bravely?

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