Thousands of Cubans are currently displaced after making a failed attempt at reaching the United States on the backdrop of the Cold War Era Policy whereby the US accepts them once they set foot on US soil. Almost four thousand Cubans are currently in Costa Rica and Panama but they are facing difficulties as Guatemala is not allowing them entry as in-transit persons and Mexico has decided that they will only allow them entry into Mexico via land transportation; Nicaragua, as well has denied them access and Ecuador has abruptly ended visa free access to Cubans. With these countries not cooperating, authorities are now looking to Belize to grant the Cubans access for their journey to the US. Prime Minister Dean spoke on the issue.
“The President of Costa Rica called me on Wednesday I think, to aquaint me with the situation and said it was a humanitarian crisis and asked whether Belize would consider allowing the use of our facilities for transit purposes and said he was asking me and he was asking Guatemala. As I understood it the deal would be that however many we thought that we could handle if we agreed would come, land at the PGIA in planes that the International Organization for Migration would pay for, would get onto buses that they would also pay for, the Mexicans would give us an assurance that they would be immediately processed at the border with Chetumal and then allowed to enter into Mexico for processes of transit ultimately to the US. I said to him that as a matter of courtesy and fairness he should send something in writing spelling out the details of the proposal and what we could expect from the Mexicans and what we could expect from IOM and that I would raise the matter in Cabinet on Tuesday after we got his paper and after, we would have done some preliminary checking with the Cubans. I needed to know how the Cuban government feels about all this I did ask him that and he did say the Cubans gave these people exit visas so it’s not a problem. He said that he would send the documentation of his proposal and that he would also ask his Foreign Minister to speak to Foreign Minister Elrington so that additional details that he might not have been able to furnish me immediately could be provided. The Foreign Minister of Costa Rica has indicated that at some stage he will be seeking to get in touch with our Foreign Minister but it has not yet happened and I have not seen any documentation today. If there is nothing to take to Cabinet that is going to be the end of it because that is the last Cabinet meeting for the year.”
The major spike in Cubans wanting to emigrate is reportedly coming out of fear of the thawed relations between Washington and Havana which may put an end to the Cold War Era policy thus making it even more difficult for those migrating to the US. While authorities in Cuba are seeking solutions, they are still faced with added problems including the lack of seats on the aircrafts as we are currently in the high tourist season. Costa Rica, which recently dismantled a people-smuggling ring that facilitated the Cubans’ journey, has been trying to find a regional solution to get them to the US border that bypasses northern neighbor Nicaragua. Reports are that part of Guatemala’s refusal to allow Cubans to pass through appears to stem from official frustration at the difficulties Guatemalans encounter trying to reach the US via Mexico. Costa Rican authorities say they are expecting a response from the Government of Belize following its next Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, December 15.