By Ernesto Ramirez (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES (dpa) — The odyssey of over 4,000 Cuban migrants stranded in Costa Rica (and another thousand in Panama) remains unresolved after Guatemala refused to make a bridge to reach the United States.
The Costa Rican government announced Friday that the Guatemalan authorities argued that it would be very difficult to explain to their citizens that Cubans would pass through the country heading for the United States when the Guatemalans themselves-and many other
Central Americans face obstacles to enter that country.
The Cubans are stranded in Costa Rica since mid-November, when the Government of Nicaragua sent out the army and police to put an end to their long journey that began in Ecuador, the only country in the region that was, until recently, allowing Cubans to enter with a visa.
The departure of migrants from the socialist island has increased this year amid rumors that the United States will soon repeal immigration advantages that exist only for Cubans (under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966), as a result of the diplomatic rapprochement with the government in Havana.
Costa Rica has not been able to resolve the problems created from the closing of the Nicaraguan border on November 15. The Government of San José had agreed earlier to grant temporary visas to Cubans when they began arriving by the dozens at the Paso Canoas border post on the southern border with Panama.
On Monday, when an officer of the Costa Rican Presidential House announced that Vice Foreign Minister Alejandro Solano would participate the on Tuesday day in Mexico at a meeting with their counterparts of Mexico and Guatemala, many of the immigrants broke into applause and cheers, believing that the meeting would find a short-term solution to the immigration crisis.
But the joy was short lived. By Friday, long faces and despair took hold among many of the migrants, after the Costa Rican government told them that Guatemala had also refused to allow them to pass.
Although Costa Rica speaks of a humanitarian crisis and calls for a regional solution, the country seems to be alone. While Mexico has expressed solidarity with the country, the refusal of Nicaragua and Guatemala has become a double plug for this wave of migrants.
When the crisis began to mount, Havana criticized Washington for maintaining in force its Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which allows Cubans to easily obtain permanent US residency, even if they enter the country irregularly. No other country’s people have similar advantages.
The US routinely denies a tourist visa to Cubans but excepts them if they arrive at its borders, risking their lives and sometimes their children to do so.
During a recent meeting on migration issues with Cuban authorities, and despite normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations, Washington ruled out making changes to the controversial legislation.
With the refusal now of Panama to open its borders to Cubans, as Nicaragua and Guatemala, Costa Rica is now negotiating with Belize, neighboring Guatemala, the possibility of establishing an air bridge to allow the transfer of Cubans stranded in their territory to cross into Mexico and from there arrive to the USA.
The small country is studying the request of Costa Rica, but according to Gonzalez, will not respond until 8 December.
Meanwhile, the Central American country is demanding help. “We cannot solve this crisis alone,” the Costa Rican foreign minister made clear on Thursday.