San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

President Solís, church leaders discuss Cuban migrant crisis

President Luis Guillermo Solís met with Costa Rican bishops Wednesday as another day passed with no resolution on the Cuban migrant crisis at the Nicaraguan border. Foreign Minister Manuel González told reporters Wednesday evening that assistance from the Catholic Church — one of several organizations providing relief and shelter to the migrants — would likely be required for several more days at least.

The Cuban migrants have become a diplomatic hot potato as countries blame one another for the crisis.

González said he and the president asked to address the issue at a meeting of church leaders from across Central America that was already planned for early next week in San José.

The National Emergency Commission said Wednesday that it opened a sixth shelter for Cuban migrants stuck at the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border trying to reach the United States in order to ask for asylum. Temporary shelters for some 980 people have been set up in school gymnasiums, churches and fire stations.

The Cuban government issued a statement Tuesday evening decrying the U.S.’s “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, which it said motivates these migrants. Authorities on the island said that U.S. immigration policy “holds back the normalization of migration relations between Cuba and the United States and creates problems for other countries.”

The U.S. Embassy in San José previously told The Tico Times that there is no plan to change its immigration policy toward Cubans, which is laid out in the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, and that the U.S. supports the “safe, legal, and orderly migration” of Cubans.

Cuba called for a “quick and suitable” solution to the crisis that has left approximately 2,000 migrants in limbo in Costa Rica with no legal option to continue north. Costa Rica has called for a “humanitarian corridor” to allow the migrants to reach their goal.

Foreign Minister González said Nicaragua’s refusal to let the Cubans pass was based on already chilly relations between the two Central American neighbors.

“Nicaragua is taking advantage of the pain of these people and making it part of the bilateral relationship with Costa Rica because of the decisions by the Hague,” González told reporters, referring to the International Court of Justice, where both countries have pending cases.

Nicaragua, meanwhile, continues to blame Costa Rica for the unauthorized attempted crossing of roughly 800 Cuban migrants on Sunday. Claiming that the country was defending its borders, the Nicaragua government sent the military to confront the migrants, firing rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd.

Cubans require visas to enter both Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Until last Friday Nicaragua had been receiving Cuban migrants deported from Costa Rica.

A regional meeting proposed by Costa Rica between Ecuador, Colombia, Central America and Mexico to address a proposed humanitarian corridor or another solution has yet to take shape. Vice ministers from the member states of the Central American Integration System are set to meet Thursday in El Salvador to discuss the subject.

Minister González said he did not expect the meeting to resolve the migrant crisis that started on Costa Rica’s border with Panama at Paso Canoas on Nov. 11 and continues now in Peñas Blancas, at the northern end of Costa Rica.

AFP contributed to this report

Contact Zach Dyer at

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Ken Morris

Manuel González is probably right not to expect the regional meeting to resolve the problem–and it’s his own damn fault.

When González says stuff like “Nicaragua is taking advantage of the pain of these people,” he is not setting a tone conducive to a fruitful discussion of the issue with Nicaragua, which probably doesn’t take kindly to gratuitous insults coming from Costa Rica’s foreign minister.

While it would be nice to give González and his ilk training in manners, it would probably be more practical to train them to use the telephone. Before Costa Rica breaks its own immigration law by admitting illegals into its country with the plan of sending them on up to Nicaragua and expecting Nicaragua to break its immigration law too, González might have telephoned Nicaragua to mention the idea and see if Nicaragua would go along with it.

“Danny? This is Manuel in Costa Rica.”

“Hey Manuel, how’s it going?”

“OK, but we’ve got a bit of a problem brewing that I need to get together with you to resolve.”

“What’s the problem, buddy?”

“We’ve got a flood of illegal Cubans coming in from Panama, who only want to continue through Nicaragua en route to the US. My people are cool with letting them pass, but we need to clear it with you. Are you guys good with letting the Cubans pass too?”

“How many Cubans are we talking about?”

“Right now it looks to be a couple thousand, but more keep arriving.”

“Holy shit, Raul may not like me letting this many Cubans pass, and it’s too damn many to keep him from knowing. Plus, as I’m sure you realize, Nicaragua and Cuba have pretty tight relations that I don’t want to screw up.”

“I understand. Can you call Raul and see what he wants to do? Somebody’s going to have to do something about the mess of Cubans coming in. Maybe if we keep it quiet Raul will let them pass. He’s got bigger worries right now, you know.”

“Yeah, it’s worth asking, though I think I’ll call Fidel instead. Raul still goes too much by the book.”

“Good point.”

“Manuel, there’s another issue. If Fidel gives us the green light, I’m still going to have to check with Honduras to make sure it will take them, and then Honduras is going to have to check with the next country up the line, and so on. This is looking like it’s going to turn into a telephone tree and we’re going to have to get green lights the whole way to make it work. Can’t you guys just deport the Cubans and save us all the grief?”

“We could do that, Danny, and there’s some thinking that we should, but we have this humanitarian thing going on and public opinion is against deporting the Cubans. My boss, Solís, is already really sinking in the polls and can’t afford any more bad press.”

“Yeah, damn politics, it’s never easy . . . . OK, let me make a couple calls and I’ll see what I can do–but you’re going to owe me if I can pull this off.”

“Fair enough. How’s a case of Imperial sound?”

“Ha ha, I can’t believe you Ticos actually like that bathtub beer. Make it a case of Toña and you’re on.”

“OK, Toña it is. How’s the family?”

“Good, yours?”


“Talk to you soon.”

“Thanks, buddy, bye.”


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