QCOSTARICA – The very same action by Costa Rica authorities to stop the trafficking of persons at the northern border that caused the thousands of Cuban migrants to become stranded in the country, has now given way to a flourishing “coyote” (smuggling) business.
On November 10, Costa Rica dismantled a smuggling operation in the country that allowed, among others, Cuban migrants passage through the country by land from Panama to Nicaragua. The trafficking network was part of an operation that moved the migrants from Ecuador to Mexico, to reach the United States border.
Frustrated and with no easy solution in sight, a number of the migrants have succumbed to the coyotes, who charge about US$1,000 or more to cross (illegally) into Nicaragua, for them continue their travel north. Some have made it through, many others cheated out of their money and are back in Costa Rica.
Reports from La Cruz, Guanacaste is that increasingly the islanders are opting for the illicit traffic and paying the coyotes to help them evade the blockade imposed on them by Nicaragua since last November 15.
“People are desperate. The fact that there is no solution has caused many to fall into the hands of the smuggles,” said Osmani, one of the Cuban migrants who refused to reveal his real name because his family does not know he is in Costa Rica.
Osmani told La Nacion he has seen many failed attempts by his countrymen, who are disregarding the risk and the cost.
“Some make it to Honduras, but most do not. Everyone here knows what’s going on. The coyotes are scamming. You seem them (fellow Cubans) leave the shelters and days later or hours are back and without their money”, said Osmani.
Milady Garcia is one of the migrants who got scammed. Talking to La Nacion, she says she paid a smuggler US$450 to get her through the border, then left stranded in the woods, in the middle of nowhere.
“It was all a lie. A fraud. We walked for four days until a farmer found us, then got caught by the (Nicaragua) army and sent us back. They (smugglers) told us they would be back for us, but never returned,” said Garcia.
Others lived similar experiences, paying up to US$1,000 or even more, but ending up back to where they started, stranded in Costa Rica. And without their money.
“The army in Nicaragua caught us and we were sent back; we were on the road to Managua after walking for 12 hours, it was traumatic,” Dalia Cruz said in telling her story.
Some, however, have made it as far as Honduras.
A migrant, speaking to La Nacion journalist Natasha Cambronero, they met on December 8 at the Peñas Blancas border, said he made it to Honduras, along with his wife and a group of 125 other migrants, each paying a coyote US$1,200. As evidence, he sent the journalist photographs.
It’s been 40 days since the government of Daniel Ortega closed the border to the Cuban migrants. During this time, the government of Luis Guillermo Solis has failed to win the support of the Central America Integration System (SICA) to created a “humanitarian corridor” and the governments of Guatemala and Belize, to allo the migrants to move north, through their territory, into Mexico. Costa Rica has planned to airlift the migrants to Guatemala or Belize, where they could, on foot, cross into Mexico.
Mexico has repeatedly said it will accept the Cuban migrants to move through it territory to cross into the U.S., but only by land.
During the 40 days Costa Rica has issued transit visas to the Cuban migrants in the country, some 7,500. But on December 19 said it will not accept any new entries, except for the some 800 Cubans at the Panama-Costa Rica border, after which Costa Rica has made it very clear any Cuban entering the country illegally will deported to Cuba.
Come Monday, December 28, there may be new hope for the Cuban migrants with a meeting of officials from Central America, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and the United States either in Mexico or Guatemala, focused on finding a solution.
Article adapted from source, La Nacion