Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ecuador's visa rule puts roadblock on Cubans' path to U.S.

Ecuador's visa rule puts roadblock on Cubans' path to U.S.
Associated Press
Friday, November 27, 2015 8:59pm

Cubans gather outside Ecuador's embassy in Havana on Friday, expressing
frustration at a new visa rule that now requires they have a visa to
visit the South American country. The lack of a visa requirement for
Cubans made Ecuador a favored destination for those seeking to leave the
island and make the overland route to the United States, where they can
receive automatic legal residency. Some came with plane tickets, and
flight itineraries, demanding reimbursement of the cost of their airline
tickets with destination to Ecuador. [Associated Press]

HAVANA — Hundreds of angry Cubans confronted police and Ecuadoran
embassy officials in an unusual display of public discontent on Friday
after the surprise announcement of a new visa requirement aimed at
choking off this year's historic overland emigration of Cubans across
more than 3,000 miles of South and Central America to the U.S. border
with Mexico.

Chanting "Visa! Visa!" as dozens of uniformed and plainclothes security
agents looked on, Cubans with tickets booked for Ecuador in coming days
complained that they would lose years of savings because of the change
announced by the Ecuadoran government Thursday evening, which left them
less than two business days to get their hands on a visa.

Deputy Foreign Minister Xavier Lasso said Ecuador would require visas of
Cubans starting Dec. 1 in order to curb migration that he said "puts at
risk men, women and children."

Ecuador had been one of the few countries in the hemisphere that doesn't
require visas for Cuban visitors, making it the chief starting point for
tens of thousands of Cubans who have flown there this year and then made
an overland trek across seven borders to reach the U.S., where they
receive automatic legal residency. The flow has surged in 2015 due
largely to fears that the detente between the U.S. and Cuba announced
last Dec. 17 would lead to the end of special Cold War-era privileges
for Cuban migrants.

Two leftist Latin American countries allied with Cuba have begun to
crack down on the northbound flood.

Nicaragua closed its southern border to Cuban migrants this month,
leaving more than 2,000 stranded inside northern Costa Rica. Ecuador,
another Cuban ally, said Thursday that it was committed to what it
called efforts by the Latin American community to prevent migration
without authorization.

Cubans who learned that they would suddenly need visas for flights as
early as Tuesday massed in front of the Ecuadoran embassy early Friday
as security agents closed off the surrounding streets with yellow police

Street gatherings that aren't explicitly pro-government are extremely
rare in Cuba and the crowd in front of the Ecuadoran embassy on Friday
expressed a degree of anger at President Raul Castro's government that
is rarely seen in public.

"This is Raul Castro's fault, nobody else's," said one member of the
crowd, as security agents and members of the international media
recorded the events. .

"I'm desperate," said Carmen Lopez, a 62-year-old homemaker who spent
$800 on a ticket for a Wednesday flight to visit her two sons in
Ecuador. "I've made a lot of sacrifices to save my money to be able to
go see them."

Ecuadoran embassy officials outraged the crowd when they announced
through a loudspeaker than Cubans traveling next week would have to
apply online for tourists visas.

Most Cubans have almost no internet access.

"They haven't told us anything," said Yasell Zayas Salinas, a
25-year-old self-employed candy seller, who had been planning to fly to
Ecuador with his brother. "They changed it all from one day to the next."

Source: Ecuador's visa rule puts roadblock on Cubans' path to U.S. |
Tampa Bay Times -

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