Cuba: Migration Crisis Enters New Critical Phase

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Cubans in Tapachula, Mexico. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES – Another unfortunate chapter in Cuba’s migration crisis is unfolding in southern Mexico, in the city of Tapachula, Chiapas. And, it is receiving quite a bit of media coverage too. With letters of safe passage being suspended a few days ago (permits that allowed free passage for a month in this country), approximately 5,000 Cuban migrants have accumulated on Mexican soil.

Almost a thousand left in a caravan heading for the northern border, alongside other migrants from different countries. And the rest are figuring out whether to head to Veracruz, where there is another immigration post that could give them a letter of safe passage, or, stay in Tapachula and pressure the authorities until they get this document.

Official Cuban media regularly ignore this kind of news and this is why our people aren’t used to hearing about our own migrants. Meanwhile, they give pretty exhaustive coverage to caravans of Hondurans heading for the same destination in the north or Africans who jump fences in Ceuta and Melilla.

Cubans leaving Cuba legally to then make the journey through South and Central America, run into many borders on their way to the US. Putting their lives in great risk in the hands of human traffickers and dangers at sea, rivers and in jungles. There have been many instances of death, rape and extortion. Immigration regulations at transit countries also become a problem for Cuban migrants.

What is happening now is similar to what happened four years ago when Nicaragua shut down its border and migrants ended up accumulating in Costa Rica and Panama.

Let’s hope that the situation in Mexico doesn’t go that far and that a solution is found quickly because the Cuban exodus won’t stop as long as things don’t change here in Cuba, i.e. guaranteeing greater economic and political freedoms. It’s clear that Diaz-Canel’s “continuity” strategy doesn’t give Cubans much hope. On the contrary, it convinces the majority that they have no other option but to emigrate. And, this first year of his government has been proof of this, as it has been the toughest year in the past two decades, rife with shortages.

Cuban emigration is one of the negative achievements of the Fidelista Revolution. Ever since 1959, Cuba became a country that no longer received immigrants but sent immigrants, for political reasons. Politics is at the heart of the reason why today’s migrants leave from Cuba, who apparently have economic reasons.

Before Raul Castro’s reforms, the migration flow of Cuban citizens was constant, but not very high during normal times because our people were so isolated. Without the freedom to travel abroad except for official missions (political, cultural or sports-related); problems reuniting with their families and even bans on approaching or interacting with foreigners in Cuba, made it very difficult. Under such conditions, emigration was mostly desertions or illegal exits. However, in previous decades there were times when emigration picked up a great deal, like Camarioca (1965), Mariel (1980) or the rafter’ ‘crisis (1994).

But, it was only in 2013 that the migration flow became massive and constant, when we were given back our human right to travel outside the island, which had been unauthorized until then. Traveling abroad most of the time means emigration and people sell everything they have before leaving and then embark on this adventure, with the hope of a better life.

This is why returning back to the island is an even bigger defeat, like the case of the 68 Cubans who were recently deported from Mexico. They are returning to a country without any opportunities, where they have nothing left.

Any democratic government in the world would be talking to the Mexican government to try and find a solution that benefits its citizens. But, the Cuban Foreign Ministry hasn’t said anything about this subject.

In the eyes of the Cuban government, a migrant is no longer a normal Cuban citizen, they are almost a “traitor”. Although they are no longer subject to the punishments of yesteryear because they are now potential senders of the remittances that are so vital for our economy, and potential hard currency spenders when they come back to visit their families.
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Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.

One thought on “Cuba: Migration Crisis Enters New Critical Phase

  • March 29, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Interesting – thank you for the information.

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