Avoiding the dangerous sea-crossing to Florida, would-be emigrants would fly to Ecuador, which didn’t require of Cubans a visa. From there, human-smugglers would, for from $7,000 to $10,000 each, get them to the Rio Grande. But, in November, Costa Rican authorities busted several rings of such coyotes, leaving themselves with some 1,900 undocumented Cubans on their hands.
After a week they issued them 7-day “transit visas” and dumped them at their northern border. Nicaraguan authorities refused to let in the Cubans – none of whom had entry visas. When they tried to tear down the chain-link fence marking the border, the army was called out to stop them. For the next several weeks thousands of islanders continued to pour into Costa Rica, only to be stopped at the northern bottleneck. Currently, about 8,000 Cubans are stranded there. Close to another 2,000 are stuck in Panama (Costa Rica finally closed its border to them). The “flood” ended in mid-December when Ecuador started requiring visas for Cubans.
Cuba says that since these citizens left the country legally, it would only accept back those who come voluntarily. There doesn’t seem to have been any takers on that. El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico all backed Nicaragua’s call for the US to take responsibility for the mess – which, of course, it hasn’t.
Now there’s a “pilot project.” January 12th 180 Cubans will board a plane for El Salvador where they’ll get on buses that will take them, via Guatemala, to Mexico and then to Laredo, Texas, where they’ll be welcomed with open arms. Ironically, just yesterday a planeload of the first deportees, victims of the Obama administration’s “round-up” of Central American families, women with children and unaccompanied children who’ve been streaming to the US for refuge in past months, touched down in Honduras.
If the “pilot” goes smoothly, the plan is to get all the Cubans to the US border the same way. How long that will take is anyone’s guess. It’s interesting that the anti-immigrant crowd in the field of presidential candidates, particularly the two Cuban-Americans, have kept quiet about this.