Cuba and the ongoing Central American immigration crisis
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Cuba and the ongoing Central American immigration crisis

Despite the U.S. placing a financial, economic and commercial embargo on Cuba some fifty years ago, relations appeared to be improving.

Banks and cellphone companies are just some of the businesses who have managed to cash in, as the embargo’s strict conditions looked to be easing up.

Despite conditions slowly improving across the island, vast numbers of Cubans are risking their lives and safety, heading to the U.S. in the hope of a laissez-passer, or safe conduct pass to enable them to enter the country.

North American dream

However, what has in fact ensued is an ongoing migrant crisis which Central America is struggling to cope with. Around 1,500 Cubans were stopped this week in Costa Rica, amongst whom were families with small children and elderly travelers. The routes they had taken were varied, some had passed overland through Colombia and Ecuador, prior to crossing the notoriously dangerous Darién Gap into Panama and across Central America.

Havana has shown a inactive response to the worsening situation, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responding that the immigrants are in fact “victims of  political migration due to the United States government and the Cuban Adjustment Act.”  The BBC reports.

Passed in 1966, the act enables Cubans to legally migrate to the U.S. through various migration programs which include immigrant visa issuance, refugee status admission, the diversity lottery, and the Special Cuban Migration Program (SCMP), also known as the Cuban lottery.

Yet press freedom freedom appears to be stifling the soon-to-be crisis across the island, with many hearing only via accounts from friends or relatives and Facebook when there is internet access.

So who is to blame for the situation in Central America?

The Cuban government, although responsible for its citizens, is not entirely to blame. Those who have left Cuba have done so under their own free will.

But what of the human trafficking cartels charging extortionate sums to transport immigrants in overcrowded boats through treacherous waters? The promise of reaching the U.S. for a few thousand dollars is just too tempting.

In Ecuador alone some 10,948 immigrants entered the country in 2008, during the past five years some 8,000 Cubans have left the country illegally, without registering their exit.

Meanwhile, Nicaragua and Costa Rica continue to pass the buck, with neither country willing to take on full responsibility for the increasing wave of immigrants.

“Costa Rica, in a deliberate and irresponsable act has attacked and continues to attack its southern border posts where thousands of Cubans are currently within it’s territory,” Rosario Murillo, spokesperson for Nicaraguan parliament and first lady, commented.

“I revoke any of the statements issued in a statement by the Nicaraguan authorities,” Costa Rican chancellor, Manuel González responded.

Figures look set to increase, with 17,459 Cuban immigrants entering into the U.S. via Mexico from 2013 to 2014, and some 30,966 between from last year onwards, El Tiempo reports.

But the saddest factor in this ongoing crisis is the sheer fact that thousands risk their lives to travel what is in reality a short distance: some 144 kilometers between the U.S. and Cuba over sea.

As allegations are thrown and situations worsen, Latin America could be facing a new humanitarian crisis by year end.

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