Ecuador moved to close the door on more Cuban migrants Thursday, but those leaving the Communist island have proved to be resourceful. Cuban citizens will require visas to enter Ecuador starting Tuesday as Ecuador attempts to regulate migration from the island and limit those going to the United States, Ecuador’s deputy foreign minister said Thursday.
The decision was taken as a result of a regional meeting Tuesday in San Salvador to discuss the future of thousands of Cubans who are stranded at the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border in their journey to the United States. The session was set up under the sponsorship of the Sistema de Integración de Centroamérica.
With an open-door policy to most of the world’s citizens, Ecuador has become a steppingstone for many to the United States.
“We decided to impose the visa requirement for Cuban citizens in order to discourage the flow of people seeking to reach the United States,” Ecuador’s deputy foreign minister, Xavier Lasso, told reporters in Quito.
Cuban citizens will have to make a formal request to Ecuador to enter its territory for a period of 90 days. The requirements were not spelled out.
Lasso added that this does not imply that Ecuador is closing the doors to Cubans.
Costa Rica President Luis Guillermo Solís said in a statement that he was pleased by the action by the Ecuadorian government. The decision is likely to be met with approval in Cuba where Ecuador’s ally has been
embarrassed by so many of its younger citizens voting with their feet to leave the island.
Still there are many Cubans en route from Ecuador, and there are others in Panamá who wish to enter Costa Rica.
The problem all started two weeks ago when Nicaragua refused passage to more migrants. There are an estimated 2,900 stuck in government shelters in the northern part of Costa Rica.
However, not all of the migrants flew to Ecuador to begin their trek north. Some entered Latin America as far south as Argentina. Others flew from Cuba to other Caribbean islands. The migrants hope to take advantage of a 1966 U.S. law that gives them instant residency when they reach that border.
Costa Rican officials are exploring transportation options for the Cubans, including air flights.