Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cubans Protest Stricter Rules for Traveling to Ecuador

Cubans Protest Stricter Rules for Traveling to Ecuador

MEXICO CITY — Dozens of Cubans crowded outside Ecuador's embassy in
Havana on Friday, worried and angry about new rules that require Cubans
to have a visa to enter Ecuador, which is a vital steppingstone for
islanders trying to migrate to the United States.

Until now, Ecuador was the only Latin American country that did not
require Cubans to have a visa to enter. Starting Tuesday, it will ask
them to apply online, a difficult process in a country with very limited
Internet access.

Bloggers and passers-by said that a crush of about 200 people formed in
the early morning outside the Ecuadorean Embassy in the residential
Miramar neighborhood, brandishing plane tickets and passports. "Who's
going to pay me back?" one man shouted in a news agency video posted on
YouTube. Dozens gathered outside airline offices to try to change their

Cubans will "always be welcome" in Ecuador, Xavier Lasso, the deputy
foreign minister, said in a statement. The measure was necessary, Mr.
Lasso said, to "prevent violations of human rights and even loss of life."

Thousands of Cubans travel to Ecuador each year, many to buy goods that
they sell in Cuba and many to begin an arduous trek north through
Central America to the United States. There, they cross the border and
become residents under special regulations intended to give them refuge
from persecution.

Their numbers have surged this year because of fears that those
privileges will end. About 35,000 Cubans crossed the border from October
2014 to August.

The number of people leaving Cuba is "a reflection of the mess this
country is in," said Regina Coyula, a blogger who passed the Ecuadorean
Embassy on Friday morning. Cubans in Miami are sending money to their
relatives, Ms. Coyula said, "not to invest in the future of Cuba but to
pay for these journeys."

The decision by Ecuador, a close ally of Cuba, appeared intended to ease
a crisis involving about 2,000 Cubans who have been stranded between
Costa Rica and Nicaragua since Nicaragua closed its border to them on
Nov. 15.

The impasse has fixed the region's attention on the special immigration
rules, which many Central American leaders say are unfair, and has drawn
calls from Cuba for them to be rescinded.

Arturo López-Levy, a lecturer at the University of Texas who used to
work for the Cuban intelligence services, said that while Cuba
recognized that the special regulations for Cuban migrants were an
economic lifeline, the government was unsettled by the numbers traveling
through Central America with the help of sophisticated trafficking
networks. He said this month's crisis would send a message that getting
to the United States through Central America "was not a cakewalk."

Holly Ackerman, an academic at Duke University who studies migrant
flows, said Cuban migration was "becoming more and more like the
European situation," where migrants cross several countries to reach
their destination.

"You have countries brought into it in a new way," she said. "The U.S.
has to deal with it as a transit migration issue. We have to negotiate
and coordinate."

Source: Cubans Protest Stricter Rules for Traveling to Ecuador - The New
York Times -

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