By Pedro Campos
HAVANA TIMES — Till recently, Cubans wishing to leave the country for the United States availed themselves of Ecuador’s visa exception to reach their destination through various routes, chiefly through Central America, via Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.
Nicaragua’s recent decision to deny several thousand Cubans arriving from Costa Rica passage through the country, and Ecuador’s newly-established visa requirement for Cubans, have sparked off a migratory conflict in the region and temporarily shut the corridor’s doors on Cubans seeking to reach the United States this way.
Have Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador considered the many regional implications of these decisions? Let us analyze some of them.
There are hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica. Historically, Central American borders have not been strict for the hundreds of thousands of people in the region who move across it.
Is Nicaragua aware that it is encouraging eventual migratory and border conflicts in a region that is experiencing peaceful coexistence among neighbors, after decades of political violence? Might this attitude have anything to do with Nicaragua’s intentions of creating a new, inter-ocean canal that will openly compete with the one in Panama? Has it analyzed how the violent repression of Cubans will affect future relations between the two countries?
Is Cuba hoping to use this crisis to push for the elimination of the Cuban Adjustment Act, diverting attention away from its complicated internal situation or new hurdles in its relations with the United States?
Does Ecuador realize that its measure makes life more complicated for thousands of Cubans who aspired to leave Cuba this way, that it has affected the supply of clothing, shoes, jewelry and other products and the lives of thousands of self-employed persons in Cuba who rely on this market, that many Ecuadorian suppliers will also suffer the consequences of this? Has Ecuador stopped to think of how Cuban families in the two countries will be affected by this? Has Ecuador stopped to think about the future of relations between the two countries after the implementation of this measure?
Is the Cuban government behind these decisions by Nicaragua and Ecuador, two of its allies in the continent? Are Nicaragua and Ecuador aware of what these decisions ultimately entail?
Lastly, have Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador considered all of the regional repercussions that could stem from these actions and situations, included increased problems in the Strait of Florida, in Cuba-US relations and other potential conflicts between the United States and these two countries, for contributing to eventual complications at the United States’ southern border, should Cubans take to the sea en masse, something the US would consider a threat to its national security?
Are they hoping to complicate regional relations following Venezuela’s parliamentary elections?
The latest developments suggest only a partial solution to the presence of Cubans in Costa Rica and to the complication of the Cuban migratory phenomenon. Following a meeting between the Cuban and US governments, the former declared that the United States was manipulating the Cuban Adjustment Act politically, and the United States reiterated that it will not change its migratory policy vis-à-vis Cuba. Havana criticized the US law that grants visas to Cuban medical doctors, and Cuba has just restricted travel by the country’s doctors, who now must secure permission from the Ministry of Public Health.
All sensible foreign policies take into account, not only the narrow interests of the political groups in power, but also those of the entire nation and its neighbors, whether they are allies or not.