QCOSTARICA – The journey of the almost 4,000 Cuban migrants in Costa Rica and some 1,200 now in Panama became more complicated yesterday, with the announcement by Guatemala that it would not allow them entry to its territory to facilitate their passage to the United States.
The Guatemala decision was announced Thursday afternoon by Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister, Manuel Gonzalez, who had been making plans to move the Cuban migrants to Guatemala by air, because of Nicaragua’s refusal to allow them passage through their country.
Gonzalez said the Guatemala decision stems from Mexico not giving the Guatemalans any guarantee that the migrant could cross into Mexican territory and the concern for the costs involved. “Although we explained they (Guatemala) would not have to pay for anything, they decided not to give permission and we can only respect it,” said Gonzalez.
Costa Rica has now turned its hopes on the smallest of the Central American countries, Belize.
“Belize should analyze the situation and take action,” Minister Gonzalez told reporters on Thursday, adding that he did not expect a response from Belmopan until next week at the earliest. Belize’s Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, is expected to meet with his cabinet on Tuesday.
If the negotiations are successful, the Cuban migrants would enter Belize via a so-called air bridge.
The Cuban migrant crisis emerged following Costa Rica’s dismantling of a human trafficking (smuggling) network on November 10. The police action netted the arrest of some 33 people and the raid on a property bordering Nicaragua, where Cubans (an others) cross north, on their way to the U.S.
But flow Cubans, making their way from Ecuador, where they could enter without a visa, continued.
However, Nicaragua’s refusal on November 15 to allow the Cuban migrants a transit visa left them stranded on the Costa Rica side of the border.
On November 24, a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the region, under the umbrella organization SICA (Central American Integration System), held in El Salvador offered hope. Also attending the meeting were authorities from Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Cuba.
Costa Rica continued to negotiate, hopeful it could quickly resolve the situation. However, Nicaragua refused to budge, continuing to this day its stance of refusing the Cuban migrants to cross into their territory.
Following the November 24 meeting, Ecuador announced that it would be requiring a visa for Cuban tourists beginning December 1, a move that angered many in Cuba, protesting outside the Ecuadorian embassy in La Habana (Havana).
On Thursday, Panamanian authorities reported the flow of Cuban migrants has diminished. The director of Panama’s immigration service, Javier Carrillo, said that some 1,200 Cubans are in the border town of Puerto Obaldia, in the indigenous region of Kuna Yala.
Carrillo acknowledged that village of 400 inhabitants, does not have the resources to receive so many migrants, it has neither latrines nor enough food and or adequate housing.
Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis is scheduled to visit Cuba later this month, a trip announced prior to the Cuban migrant crisis, where the topic of the stranded Cubans will likely be raised.