Tag Archives: Cuban immigrants

Mexico deports Cubans awaiting travel documents to try to reach the U.S

The Miami Herald

A group of 91 Cubans who were stranded in Mexico following an end to migration policy that would have allowed them entry to the United States was deported to the island Friday, the Mexican authorities announce
“In compliance with the provisions of the Migration Law, 91 Cuban nationals were sent to their country this morning from the airport in Tapachula Chiapas, after Cuban authorities issued a recognition of their nationality,” according to a statement issued by the Mexican National Institute of Migration (INM).

The group included 20 women and 71 men who, according to the INM, were waiting to obtain transit documents to continue their their journey to the U.S. border.

Yadel González Sagre, who had been in Tapachula for 19 days, was among those returned to the island. He said he and others were taken from the Siglo XXI Migrant Station early Friday.

“Suddenly they told us that they were going to deport us and they got us all out of there. It was terrible, they beat us and threatened us. Then they pushed us into buses and from there they took us directly to the airport and they have been sending us in small groups,” González said via text messages.

González said he feared returning to a life he described as “hell” in his native Havana.

“We live in a country without rights,” he said.

In its statement, the INM pointed out that Mexico’s Migration Law provides undocumented foreigners the ability to obtain transit documents that allow them to legally travel through Mexico for up to 20 days so that they can legalize their migration status to leave the country.

In the case of 91 Cubans, the Consulate General of Cuba formally recognized and agreed to take back its citizens, allowing Mexican authorities to carry out deportations, INM said.

Since the Jan. 12 end to U.S. immigration policy known as wet foot, dry foot, hundreds of Cubans have been stranded in Mexico and elsewhere in their attempt to reach the United States.

Cuba is in trouble

A Cuban woman migrant uses her cell phone while other Cubans sleep outside of the border control building in Penas Blancas, Costa Rica, on the border with Nicaragua, on Nov. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)
A Cuban woman migrant uses her cell phone while other Cubans sleep outside of the border control building in Penas Blancas, Costa Rica, on the border with Nicaragua, on Nov. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)

iPolitics, by Jonathan Manthorpe

Economic reforms have stalled — and Cubans are running out of patience

Under the Castro brothers’ brand of feudal Marxism, Cuba has always needed a sugar daddy.

It hasn’t helped the island’s economic well-being, of course, that since Fidel and Raul Castro captured the island in 1959 the United States has imposed comprehensive travel and trade sanctions. The Soviet Union stepped in early on to support the Caribbean orphan and for 30 years was responsible for 80 per cent of the island’s imports and exports.

That subsidy came to an abrupt end with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Cuba then entered what is euphemistically called the “Special Period in Time of Peace” — when the country’s production dropped by 34 per cent, there was total dislocation of the transportation system and power outages were common. Mass starvation was avoided, but the average Cuban lost nine kilograms in weight during this period.

In 1999, that strutting rooster Hugo Chavez came to the rescue. From then until his death in March, 2013, the Venezuelan president supplied Cuba with tens of billions of dollars in loans and a steady stream of heavily subsidized oil at around 200,000 barrels a day. That has all but dried up as Venezuela’s economy and society continues its tailspin under Nicolas Maduro.

Fortunately for the Castro brothers, a new sugar daddy appeared on the horizon almost immediately — in the unlikely shape of Uncle Sam.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement in 2014 of renewed ties to Cuba opened the door to American tourism and investment. This prospect seemed close when Obama visited Cuba in March, the first U.S. president to do so for nearly a century. However, the Castro brothers are nothing if not pigheaded — especially Fidel, who only waited until Air Force One had lifted off before launching another of his classic diatribes against Obama and all things Washington.

Promises by Raul Castro of economic reforms to enhance a revived, business-friendly relationship with the U.S. have turned out to be less than meets the eye. Old Commies find it hard to let go of the simple doctrines of their youth, even when they’ve brought them nothing but failure for half a century.

The result is that with the Venezuelans gone — and the Yankee saviours having not yet arrived — the Cuban economy is experiencing a sharp decline.

The number of tourists visiting Cuba increased by 17 per cent last year over 2014, generating gross revenues of $US2.8 billion. But it’s a drop in the bucket. Tourists visit only limited areas of the island and the bulk of the country gets little benefit. That may change when direct U.S. commercial flights resume later this month. But for the moment there’s a big hole in the Castro brothers’ wallet.

It doesn’t help that their natural instinct at these moments of economic stress is to impose price controls and rationing. These act as a major discouragement to Cuba’s already semi-dysfunctional agricultural sector.

Fuel and energy consumption is being cut by 25 per cent. Public lighting is being reduced and government offices are closing early to save power. Price controls are being imposed to placate public discontent over inflation. Imports are being cut by 17 per cent, a severe measure for an import-dependent economy.

Raul Castro, who now runs the show (unless Fidel feels a rant coming on), is portraying these moves as pre-emptive action to prevent a return of the “Special Period.” They also amount to another blow to market reforms — without which the country will continue to flounder.

Many Cubans who can are voting with their feet. There’s been a remarkable increase in the number of Cubans making the arduous and sometimes perilous journey to claim political asylum in the U.S.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 46,635 Cubans have entered the U.S. so far this year, up from 43,159 in 2015. And the 2015 total was up 78 per cent on the 24,278 Cubans who made it to the U.S. in 2014, when the Castro regime made it easier for Cubans to travel abroad. In 2011, only 7,759 Cubans made it to the U.S.

The economic recession at home and uncertainty about when things may improve are driving this exodus, but there’s also the strong magnetic pull from the U.S. In 1966, as Washington ratcheted up its sanctions against the Castro regime, it also enacted the Cuban Adjustment Act, aimed at aiding refugees from the island. The act is sometimes called the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy; it allows Cubans who arrive in the U.S. through a regular port of entry, and who pass criminal and immigration checks, to apply for permanent residence after only a year in the country.

But with relations between the U.S. and Cuba returning to normal, there’s a growing mood in Washington to repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act. Which explains the rush among Cubans who want to get to the U.S. (and can do so) to make the trip before the fast-track to citizenship is closed off.

The Havana government has railed against the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, saying it turns Cubans into “victims of human traffickers and delinquent bands operating in the region. These citizens are victims of the politicization of the migration theme on the part of the United States government, which stimulates illegal and unsafe migration.”

The most popular route for Cubans is to fly to Ecuador, where entry is usually easy, and then travel north through Central America and Mexico. Most of these Cubans — 64 per cent of the total — enter the U.S. through Laredo, though many also go through El Paso.

But Ecuador has started demanding visas of Cubans and other routes through the Caribbean rim have become more difficult. Early this month, Colombia deported 1,350 of about 1,800 Cubans stranded in the town of Turbo near the border with Panama. This followed Panama’s closing of its border with Colombia in May. In April, Costa Rica closed its border with Panama, and last November, Nicaragua closed its border with Costa Rica to Cuban migrants.

The time-honoured alternative is the 145-kilometre sea crossing from Cuba to Florida. Last year the number of Cuban migrants who registered with the U.S. border authorities in Miami more than doubled to almost 10,000 from just under 5,000 in 2014.

But since October of last year, the U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted 5,786 Cubans at sea — taking them home to a not very warm welcome from the Castro brothers’ regime.

Marco Rubio: Obama not doing enough to stop Cuba migrant crisis

marcorubio1

CNN

Sen. Marco Rubio used the Cuban migrant crisis approaching U.S. borders on Thursday to lambast President Barack Obama’s policies toward Cuba as laughable.

The Cuban-American Republican senator from Florida was asked what he would do about Cuba as president on Thursday at an Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security forum in New Hampshire.

He attacked Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba, saying the U.S. made “major concessions” and Cuba changed “nothing” in how they behave in return, including harboring fugitives, collaborating with U.S. enemies and oppressing its citizens.

“Cuba oppresses its people so bad that today we have a migratory crisis from Cuba that’s being under-reported,” Rubio said. “You literally have thousands of Cuban migrants who have gone to Costa Rica and are now working their way up Central America to cross the U.S. border because once they come into the United States, they’re legal.”

There are roughly 8,000 Cuban migrants who have been stranded in Costa Rica, and they recently began a journey through Central America to cross into the U.S. at the southern border, with the first batch of dozens arriving over the weekend.

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Continue reading Marco Rubio: Obama not doing enough to stop Cuba migrant crisis

Sen. Marco Rubio to propose bill to cut aid to Cuban migrants

Sun Sentinel

marcorubio1

On the presidential campaign trail Thursday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said he will introduce legislation within days to address unbridled abuses of refugee aid to Cuban migrants.

Rubio joins other influential Cuban Americans in Congress calling for an end to abuses documented in a Sun Sentinel investigation in October that found welfare meant to help Cubans settle in America was instead funding life on the island.

“You now have evidence of people coming to the U.S.,” the Florida Republican told reporters in New Hampshire, and “qualifying for Social Security or other benefits and they’re moving back to Cuba and they’re collecting the checks there.”

“That’s just outrageous,” he said. “Those abuses need to be dealt with.”

At a party earlier at the Bedford, N.H., home of a woman who runs a conservative think tank, Rubio said: “I have a law that we are going to introduce this week that shuts down this issue,” according to NBC News.

Rubio’s staff confirmed to the Sun Sentinel on Thursday that the senator has been working on a bill and will release details next week.

The GOP presidential hopeful also reiterated that the U.S. needs to “re-examine” the Cuban Adjustment Act, which for decades has given Cubans a quick path to legal status and benefits in the U.S., whether they entered the country with or without permission. No other immigrant group has such easy access to the U.S. and its welfare programs.
Continue reading Sen. Marco Rubio to propose bill to cut aid to Cuban migrants

Central American nations reached an agreement to allow several thousand Cuban migrants stranded in Costa Rica to continue their journey towards the United States

Cuban migrants say they prefer to try their luck through Central American than returning to Cuba
Cuban migrants say they prefer to try their luck through Central American than returning to Cuba

BBC News

Central American nations have reached an agreement to allow several thousand Cuban migrants stranded in Costa Rica for over a month to continue their journey towards the United States.

The migrants will be airlifted to El Salvador and put on buses, which will take them to the US.

American legislation gives Cuban migrants preferential treatment.

If they arrive at the US border by land they are allowed to enter the country and apply for residency.

Those who are intercepted at sea are sent back, under the special immigration policy known as “wet foot, dry foot”.

Many Cuban migrants fear that the thaw in relations between Washington and Havana may put an end to the preferential treatment given to them.

“We have agreed to make the first humanitarian transfer in January,” said foreign ministers from the Sica regional group and Mexico.

They met in Guatemala City to try to find a solution to the crisis.

Cuba did not attend the meeting, but said it expected “a quick and adequate solution” from the nations involved.

“I strongly believe that the politicisation of US migration policy toward Cuba must change,” said Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

The current crisis began in November when Nicaragua, a close ally of Cuba, denied access to thousands of migrants arriving from Costa Rica. The Cuban government says an estimated 7,000 migrants have been living on the Costa Rican side of the border since 14 November.

Many of the migrants flew from Cuba to Ecuador, which did not require Cubans to have visas. Ecuador has since changed its visa policy for Cubans.

From Ecuador, the Cuban migrants travelled north through Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica until they were stopped by Nicaragua.

The move has caused tension between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Costa Rica had called for the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” to allow the migrants to continue their long journey to the US border, about 2,400 km (1,500 miles) away.

On Sunday, Pope Francis urged Central American nations to show generosity in dealing with the crisis.

“I invite the countries of the region to renew with generosity all necessary efforts in order to find a rapid solution to this humanitarian drama,” the Pope told tens of thousands of people at the Vatican’s St Peter’s Square.

The Pope said many of the Cubans passing through Central America were victims of human trafficking.

Visa protest sign of new boldness in Cuba

ecuadorprotest

BBC News

As Europe’s winter approaches and many hundreds of thousands of immigrants across the continent face an uncertain future, in Havana rare street protests have been held in recent days over a separate, very different kind of immigrant crisis that’s taking place in Latin America.

It is a journey which begins in Cuba, but takes in Ecuador in the Andes and Central American nations such as Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

It involves political allegiances between long-standing allies and new relationships between former Cold War foes.

And, of course, it involves the immigration policies of the migrants’ ultimate destination, the US.

Late on Thursday, Ecuador’s foreign ministry announced that from 1 December Cubans would require a visa to enter the country.

For many Cubans, the news was a blow.

In fact, Ecuador was reimposing a measure it had lifted on its socialist ally in April 2014.

For 18 months, Cubans had enjoyed the freedom to travel to the South American nation without restriction.

Ecuador quickly became a popular destination for Cubans as it presented them with two important opportunities.

First, the rare chance to travel abroad to a comparatively affordable holiday destination – one where they could load up on much-needed goods and electrical items, often with the intention of reselling them on the black market back in Cuba.

Second, for thousands of Cuban immigrants it became the first step on a 5,500 km trip north to the US.

Ecuador’s decision came as around 3,000 Cubans sit stranded in Costa Rica amid a stand-off with Nicaragua.

Costa Rica is urging its Central American neighbours to grant safe passage to the Cubans, to allow a kind of “humanitarian corridor'” so they can reach the US.

But Nicaragua, led by Raul Castro’s old ally, President Daniel Ortega, is refusing to let them in and is taking what appears to be a harder line on Cubans passing through their territory on the route north.

Cuba has said the immigrants can return home but it is clear that they have no intention of abandoning their trip.

Instead, they are left in limbo on Costa Rica’s northern border.

Ecuador announced its plan to require a visa for Cubans following an emergency meeting in El Salvador – seemingly echoing Nicaragua’s tougher stance.

The Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry said they still welcomed Cubans to the country, but were committed to “efforts by the Latin American community to prevent migration without authorisation”.

Meanwhile, those Cubans who had already bought plane tickets for Ecuador were caught by surprise by the news and without visas face losing their flights and their money.

But significantly, their reaction was one not often seen in Cuba.

Anger on the streets

Rather than meekly accept the decision of the authorities, they took to the streets outside the Ecuadorean embassy to demand their visas be issued immediately.

Protests that aren’t government organised are very rare in Cuba and in this instance, police cordoned off several streets around the embassy building.

Ecuadorean diplomats used loudspeakers to address the crowd, who had started to chant for visas, insisting that they would have to apply for them online.

Given how little internet access there is in Cuba, and how difficult and expensive it is for people to get online, that was never going to placate the crowd.

At the same time, there were also queues forming outside the offices of the Copa and Avianca airline companies, as frustrated customers demanded refunds on their tickets.

Some were desperate, having spent up to $800 (£531) on their tickets, a huge sum for most Cubans.

Others were visibly angry – both at the Ecuadorean Government for taking the measure, thereby cutting off one of their few routes out of Cuba, and at the Cuban Government of Raul Castro, at whose behest they believe Quito is acting.

By Saturday, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino, said that those Cubans who had bought tickets before the announcement would be issued visas for travel.

But even that wasn’t enough to send home some in the crowd, who resolutely stayed put until their individual cases were resolved.

US embargo

The US broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro and his brother Raul led a revolution toppling US-backed President Fulgencio Batista. The Castros established a revolutionary socialist state with close ties to the Soviet Union.

The following year, the US imposed a trade embargo covering nearly all exports to Cuba. This was expanded by President Kennedy into a full economic embargo that included stringent travel restrictions.

The embargo is estimated to have cost the Cuban economy more than $1.1tn and the US economy $1.2bn a year.

In September, the US announced eased restrictions on business and travel with Cuba, the latest move by President Barack Obama to improve relations with the country.

US businesses will now be allowed to open up locations in Cuba.

For its part, the Cuban government has consistently blamed the situation on the US and its immigration policies that favour Cubans.

Specifically the Cuban Adjustment Act and the famed “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which give Cubans who reach US soil automatic legal residency and the right to apply for citizenship.

This, the Castro Government says, is the carrot in Washington’s policy towards Cuba (the trade embargo on the island being the stick).

In fact, the number of Cubans making the vast trip from the Andes up to the US-Mexico border has risen significantly since the detente between the US and Cuba was announced on 17 December last year.

Many Cubans fear the days of their special privileges in the US are numbered and those who want to get to the US to claim residency now see it as a race against time.

With Ecuador closing one loophole and Nicaragua posting troops to its border with Costa Rica in the continuing impasse over the stranded immigrants, it certainly seems that Cuba’s allies intend to make that journey even harder.

Cuban regime doesn’t want their slave doctors to defect

The Castro regime has once again imposed travel restrictions to limit the number of slave doctors that can flee the island. Here is an article from the Associated Press:

Colombia Cuban Doctors

Presione aquí para leerlo En Español

Cuba Imposes Travel Permit for Doctors to Limit Brain Drain

The Cuban government announced Tuesday that it is re-imposing a hated travel permit requirement on many doctors, requiring them to get permission to leave the country in an attempt to counter a brain drain that it blames on the United States.

It is the first major retreat in Cuba’s policy of allowing unrestricted travel for its citizens, put in place in 2013 as President Raul Castro allowed new freedoms as part of a broad set of social and economic reforms.

The announcement set off waves of anger and worry among Cuban doctors and nurses, members of one of the country’s most respected and economically important professions. By midday, many Cuban doctors were trying to figure out whether quitting their jobs would free them of the travel limit.

“Instead of resolving the real problems of Cuban doctors, which is that salaries are low and we are working with limited resources, this measure shows that there’s no respect for the rights of citizens in Cuba,” said Dr. Eduardo Herrera, a surgeon at Calixto Garcia Hospital in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood.

The government announced on the front page of state media that health professionals in specialties that have been drained by large-scale emigration in recent years will now be required to get permission from Health Ministry officials in order to leave the country. The measure potentially affects one-tenth of the country’s work force, leaving very few families in Cuba untouched.

The Cuban government cites free, universal health care system as one of the crowning achievements of its socialist revolution. Medical missions abroad are one of the most important sources of foreign exchange for the Cuban government, which receives tens of thousands of dollars a year in cash or commodities for each doctor it sends overseas. Official statistics show that 500,000 of the country’s 5 million workers are health professionals.

The new policy was announced hours after a meeting Monday between U.S. and Cuban negotiators in Washington to address a crisis in Cuban migration, which has reached its highest levels in at least two decades this year. Cuba complained that the U.S. said it had no plans to change Cold War-era policies that give automatic legal residency to Cuban immigrants.

Like Herrera, many Cuban doctors cite low pay, poor working conditions and the possibility of well-compensated jobs in other countries as their primary reasons for emigrating. The Cuban government places the blame on the U.S. policy of granting automatic legal residency to Cuban immigrants, with special fast-track benefits for doctors who abandon government medical missions overseas.

The government has raised medical salaries in recent years, but few doctors earn more than $80 a month, a fraction of what they would earn in medicine in other countries, or even as drivers or waiters in Cuba’s booming tourist economy.

“The migration of Cuban health professionals is a concern for the country,” the government announcement read, blaming U.S. laws that aid Cuban medical emigration for having “the perverse objective of pushing Cuban health professionals to abandon their missions in other countries.”

Inside Cuba, many doctors and nurses complain that their profession has been devastated by waves of departures, with vital specialists now absent in many clinics and hospitals. The government announcement cited anaesthesiology, neurosurgery, obstetrics and gynecology and neonatal care as among the specialties worst hit by emigration of doctors.

“The reaction to this will be big,” one neurosurgery resident said Tuesday morning. “We doctors are pretty much fed up because they aren’t managing our situation well.”

He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions from his supervisors.

Over the past two years, at least 100,000 Cubans have emigrated to the United States, the majority making a treacherous land journey from Ecuador through South and Central America and Mexico. The pace has quickened dramatically this year, with many Cubans fearing that the detente announced nearly a year ago between the United States and Cuba will mean the end to special migration privileges.

Left-leaning Latin American allies of Cuba began cracking down on Cuban migration last month. Nicaragua closed its border to Cuban migrants, leaving at least 3,000 trapped in emergency shelters in northern Costa Rica. And Ecuador last week imposed a visa requirement for Cuban travelers in an attempt to end its role as the starting point for most Cuban migration.

The Ecuadorean move set off two days of angry protests outside the country’s embassy in Havana, a highly unusual event in a country where the government unleashes swift crackdowns on unauthorized street demonstrations.

Hundreds Gather in Cuba in Frustration at Ecuador Visa Rule

ecaudors

ABC News

Hundreds of angry Cubans gathered in front of Ecuador’s embassy in Havana on Friday in an unusual public display of discontent. They said they were frustrated by Ecuador’s new rule that Cubans need a visa to visit — a move that complicates both legitimate travel and efforts to reach the United States.

The lack of a visa requirement for Cubans made Ecuador a favored destination for those seeking a vacation or job abroad, as well as those who leave the island and make the 3,400-mile (5,500-kilometer) overland route to the United States, where they can receive automatic legal residency.

Many people lined up early in hope of getting a visa, which will be required for travel as of Tuesday. But diplomats told the crowd by loudspeaker that they would have to apply for a visa via a government website. Most Cubans have almost no internet access.

A sort of impromptu protest broke out, with many in the crowd chanting “Visa! Visa!”

Police blocked off the area around the embassy in Havana’s Miramar district and by late morning, the crowd began to dwindle to at most about 200.

Ecuador announced the visa requirement on Thursday as part of an effort to stem a flow of migrants using Ecuador as a transit country to reach other nations without permission.

“We do not close the door to Cuba,” but Ecuador is committed to efforts by the Latin American community to prevent migration without authorization, Deputy Foreign Minister Xavier Lasso said in making the announcement.

Latin American officials held a weekend meeting in El Salvador to discuss the plight of 3,000 U.S.-bound Cuban migrants who are stranded at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, which has balked at allowing them to cross its territory.

Many Cubans fear that the normalization of relations with the U.S. will bring an end to Cold War-era special immigration privileges that give U.S. residency to any Cuban who sets foot on U.S. soil.

Thousands of Cubans remain stuck on the Costa Rican side of the border with Nicaragua after Managua refused at a regional summit on Tuesday to open its doors to a wave of migrants heading for the United States.

cubanoscostarica

Reuters

Fearing the recent rapprochement between Havana and Washington could end preferential U.S. policies for Cuban migrants, thousands of people from the Communist-ruled island have been crossing into South America and traveling through Central America hoping to reach U.S. soil.

More than 3,000 Cubans have been stopped for days at the Costa Rican border after the Nicaraguan government shut its borders, denying them passage north through the country. At least 150 Cubans are arriving every day, exacerbating the problem.

During a regional summit in El Salvador, which included representatives from the governments of Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico, Nicaragua rejected Costa Rica’s suggestion of creating a “humanitarian corridor” for the migrants to pass through and said its border would remain closed.

“Nicaragua demands that the government of Costa Rica … remove all migrants from our border areas,” said Nicaraguan first lady and government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo.

Led by former Marxist guerrilla Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua is a close ally of Cuba, and his administration has complained that by issuing the Cubans with transit visas, Costa Rica has violated its national sovereignty.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez told reporters he thought Nicaragua had blocked a reasonable policy suggestion for resolving the crisis.

“It’s unacceptable to kid around with people’s suffering,” he said.

Since U.S.-Cuban ties began to thaw in December, the number of Cubans heading through Central America has climbed.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data published by the Pew Research Center, 27,296 Cubans entered the United States in the first nine months of the 2015 fiscal year, up 78 percent from 2014.

Under arrangements stemming from the Cold War era, Cuban migrants receive special treatment on reaching the United States. The “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy allows Cubans who set foot on U.S. soil to stay, while those captured at sea are sent back.