Cuban Migrants Trapped In Panama Have Nowhere To Go / 14ymedio, Mario Penton
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 18 August 2016 — After escaping
deportation in Colombia, some 650 Cubans managed to cross the border
through the Darien jungle area and are now in the Panamanian town of La
Miel. They have been assisted by the Panamanian government's "Controlled
Flow" operation, and may continue their journey but face an uncertain
route affected by the decision of the countries of the region to deny
"Costa Rica is a supportive country, but it has no ability to receive
more migrants," Maurice Hererra Ulloa, the nation's Minister of
Communications told 14ymedio. "Some 66 Cubans have been returned to
Panama. Our message is clear: Costa Rica is not going to receive them.
The border with Nicaragua remains absolutely closed and there will be no
way to get to the United States."
Herrera made it clear that his country would not provide transportation
of any kind for these Cubans and would not make efforts to get them to
the United States. The same applies for transcontinental and Haitian
migrants. "If they reach the border of Costa Rica they will be turned
back immediately," he says.
Panama's Minister of Security Alexis Betancourt told this newspaper that
his country's border with Colombia remains closed, but it is permitted
to shelter those who have penetrated the jungle because "we will not let
"They are illegal in Panama, in Colombia and throughout the Central
American corridor. Those who come to our borders by normal means are not
allowed to pass. In our country migration is not a crime, but they
should not be here. For those who come through the jungle and run that
risk, we will offer humanitarian aid," he explains.
The minister also reported that the flow of Cubans right now is
relatively low compared to the number seen during the first months of
the year. So far this year, Panama has undertaken two humanitarian
operations to transfer more than 5,000 Cubans who were stranded in their
"We want to make it clear that we recommend that they do not go through
the Darien jungle where there are dangerous animals, violence and
disease," says Betancourt.
"We are investigating the matter of the bodies that have been found. It
could be that there are some in the lowlands of the mountain range, but
those that have been documented are on the rise, which is an area
belonging to Colombia," he adds.
With regards to the 72 hours granted to Cubans to leave Panamanian
territory, the minister said that "it would be advisable not to come"
and that his government is not responsible for people who decide to go
into the jungle.
"Those Cubans we find are taken to one of three camps that we have set
up," where they are provided with medical care, food and water. "We then
explain to them the conditions of the camp, where they can bathe and
rest. We take their fingerprints, and interview them and they pay their
own passage to the border."
Ubernel Cruz, one of the Cubans in the village of La Miel, said that the
situation there "is getting ugly."
"Most of these people do not have money and those who do have are afraid
of getting into contact with the coyotes. Nobody knows exactly what will
happen to us, although 75 a day are leaving."
On the opposite border, the Costa Rican side, is Cuban Yunior Peñate. He
is in the village of Peñas Altas, hidden along with six other migrants.
According to Peñate's account, he sent friends in the United States more
than $2,000, the result of seven years of work in Ecuador, with the aim
that they would help him during the trip, sending money for each segment
of the journey. But once the money was in the hands of his "friends"
they never wrote him again.
He has suffered two assaults while trying to cross Nicaragua.
"I had to return here (Costa Rica). A family took us in and thanks to
them we have food and shelter. In gratitude we work on everything they
need done here. We do not know how long this situation is going to
last," he explains.
"If Costa Rica finds you in their territory they deport you to Panama,
where you can't be either. Nicaragua doesn't let us pass. The only
option is cross in hiding, but there is a lot of fear," explains the
young migrant whose destination is the United States.
The blockade on the borders of Central America to prevent the passage of
Cuban, Haitian and transcontinental immigrants is feeding the
underground networks of human trafficking. Several countries have asked
the United States to eliminate the privileges enjoyed by migrants from
Cuba, who are immediately welcomed when they step onto American soil.
The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba and other exile groups have said
that such statements "reflect a significant ignorance" of the true
causes of Cuban emigration. "They focus their attention on the
differential treatment of these migrants in the destination country,
ignoring the incredible and exceptional disadvantages of these citizens
in the country of departure," the foundation explains.
Source: Cuban Migrants Trapped In Panama Have Nowhere To Go / 14ymedio,
Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -