The governments of Nicaragua and Costa Rica will today attempt to resolve the conflict over a wave of Cuban migrants passing through Central America at a meeting of the Security Council of the Central American Integration System (SICA).
Nicaragua has criticised its southern neighbour for allowing the US-bound migrants to travel through their country, with government spokesman Rosario Murillo accusing them of “unleashing a humanitarian crisis with grave consequences for our region”.
Murillo condemned the “the violation of our national territory, our sovereignty and our borders and “the Costa Rican government’s unprecedented assumption of the right to allow into our territory people who are moving through Central America in situations of illegality and with violent attitudes.”
Between 1,100 and 2,000 Cubans travelled to Ecuador by air and continued illegally through Panama and Colombia before arriving in Costa Rica, where they were granted a special seven day visa to allow them to reach the northern border with Nicaragua. Nicaraguan army and police were deployed to block the migrants’ passage through the border town of Peñas Blancas using tear gas and rubber bullets.
Costa Rica’s National Centre for Emergencies (CNE) has offered the migrants humanitarian aid, housing 472 of them in shelters near to the Nicaraguan border. Others have set up temporary camps around Peñas Blancas, awaiting permission from the Nicaraguan authorities to continue their journey north.
The Costa Rican chancellor Manuel González criticised Nicaragua’s “disproportionate reaction of sending an army to deal with a peaceful, civilian population of migrants”, dismissing the accusations against that his country had “thrown” the migrants towards Nicaragua as “arbitrary and unfounded”.
“Costa Rica is neither the origin of this problem, nor the destination [of the migrants]” he said. Proposing the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” for migrants, he said, “this is a structural problem which needs to be tackled on an international level by all the countries involved.”
“If we do not deal with this in an ordered way, coyotes and international networks will take advantage of the situation,” he continued, adding that Nicaragua’s decision to close its borders amounted to “serving these migrants’ heads on a silver platter to traffickers.”
The recent spike in Cuban migration towards the US, which has increased by 30% over the last year according to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is thought to have been caused by rumours of a repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act as a result of the recent rapprochement between Washington and Havana. The act, enacted in 1966, allows Cubans who reach US soil and have remained there for a year and a day to claim automatic citizenship.
SICA, the regional body whose aim is to promote peace, democracy and development in the Central American nations, will discuss the issue today at its headquarters in San Salvador.