Q24N (La Habana, Cuba) Hundreds of Cubans gathered on Monday near the Costa Rican consulate in La Habana (Havana), upon learning that Costa Rica imposed a transit visa on them that complicates their plans to emigrate to Nicaragua.
Since Nicaragua eliminated the visa for Cubans in November, many islanders try to emigrate through Costa Rica to reach the United States or buy products to resell on the island, immersed in a severe shortage of food and medicine.
Annoyed Cubans complained about police preventing them from approaching the consulate.
“Transit visa from February 21, 2022”, reads a small circular hanging on the fence of the consulate, located on 5a Avenida de Miramar, an upscale Havana neighborhood.
“Applies to all nationals of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela who must enter the international airports of Costa Rica in order to change aircraft and/or airline for a maximum period of 12 hours,” the message indicates.
In the midst of its worst crisis
Cuba is experiencing its worst economic crisis in 27 years, dragged down by the drop in tourism during the pandemic and by the tightening of the embargo imposed by the United States, which aggravated the shortage.
“This is not done to anyone because, how many thousands of dollars have we invested?” Dainerys García, a 37-year-old manicurist who arrived with her husband Monday morning from the province of Holguín, eastern Cuba, told AFP.
Given the limited supply of direct flights to Managua, the couple would fly to Cancun on Tuesday morning and onto a connecting flight to San José, Costa Rica, then to El Salvador to finally arrive in Nicaragua. A journey that cost them more than US$3,000 dollars each.
“We found out through the networks, we came today to see if we have any last-minute changes and we find ourselves here full of people.”
“Many who were flying today went to the airport and were told that they were not going to be allowed to fly,” said the couple, disconcerted, doubting that they can reschedule their entire itinerary.
“They close all the doors to us Cubans,” said another young man from the central province of Sancti Spirits who in four days would have to fly to Nicaragua with stops in Panama and San José.
“We are going to spend seven or eight hours in Costa Rica,” Oliet Domínguez, from Havana, told Vozdeamerica.com, who specified that his flight involves connections in Panama, Costa Rica and El Salvador before arriving in Nicaragua. “I think this is an act of xenophobia against us,” she added.
The Cubans interviewed said they traveled to Nicaragua to shop or for tourism. The Costa Rican embassy in Cuba did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Applicants for a Costa Rica transit visa must provide criminal records spanning 10 years and prove “economic solvency,” according to requirements posted outside the embassy in Havana, though it was not immediately clear what proof was required.
Costa Rican authorities previously said that the decision to require a transit visa was aimed at guaranteeing “orderly and dignified migration.”
The Cubans interviewed by Reuters said their travel to Nicaragua was to shop or for tourism.
Direct flights to/from Nicaragua
According to the website 14yMedio.com, on Monday, February 21, Aruba Airlines began operating flights between Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, and the cities of Santa Clara and Holguín in Cuba.
For the rest of this month, the scheduled flights between Havana-Managua-Santa Clara will be on Mondays, while on Tuesdays, the airline will operate the Santa Clara-Managua-Camagüey and Camagüey-Managua-Holguín routes.
On Wednesdays it will be Holguín-Managua-Camagüey and Camagüey-Managua-Havana. For its part, on Thursdays, there will be two flights Havana-Managua-Havana and on Friday Havana-Georgetown-Camagüey.
Aruba Airlines will connect to Camagüey-Managua-Camagüey on Saturdays, and on Sunday it will link Camagüey-Georgetown-Havana.