HAVANA TIMES — Requiring Cubans to secure a visitor’s visa, a measure Ecuador announced this Thursday, is but a small step in a long road ahead of us and does not resolve the current regional crisis sparked off by the many Cuban migrants currently stranded on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
The decision is suggestive of the costs and repercussions of each move within this relatively modest conflict.
The visa requirement aims, not to regulate migration, but to discourage it. This, at least, is what Ecuador’s acting Foreign Vice-Minister Xavier Lasso declared, that his government is trying to “put an end to this migratory tendency that puts the lives of men, women and children at risk.”
Lasso illustrated the phenomenon with the following statistics: in January of 2014, 753 Cubans arrived in Ecuador. In January 2015, a total of 2,502 did so. “It’s a strong tendency. Some stay, but the majority leaves for the United States.”
It is indeed possible that this tendency will be halted and the risk of a new conglomeration of migrants (of the size we see today in Costa Rica, accounting for over three thousand people) will be reduced.
As of December 1st, all Cubans wishing to travel to Ecuador will be required to fill out an electronic application at www.consuladovirtual.gob.ec. The application is free, but the visa will cost US $30.
One of the visa requirements is proof of financial solvency, that is to say, proof of a person’s ability to finance their trip abroad, in the form of a bank or credit card statement. This policy will be reviewed on a regular basis and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will analyze applications on a “case by case” basis, Lasso declared.
That said, supposing there are Cubans able to skirt this obstacle, there is still no guarantee that, granted a visa and once on Ecuadorian soil, these visitors will be dissuaded from heading up north.
Though it is still too soon to gauge what impact this visa requirement will have on Cuban migration in the continent, it is clear this measure deals a blow to Ecuador’s “universal citizenship” policy.
Ecuador’s 2008 constitution envisages “the principle of universal citizenship, the free mobility of all the planet’s inhabitants and an end to the condition of foreigner as a transformative element of the asymmetrical relations between countries, particularly North and South countries.”
The practical result of this precept is the generalized elimination of visa requirements.
Since the approval of this norm, however, Ecuador has seen an avalanche of visitors who follow a similar migratory pattern: the country has become a springboard for immigration to the United States or Brazil.
In view of this, Quito has reinstated visa requirements for certain Asian and African nationalities. Now it’s Cuba’s turn.