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As Costa Rica tightens visa requirements, Cubans protest in Havana

People crowd near Costa Rica embassy after the country imposed visa requirements for Cubans as migration surges, in Havana, Cuba, February 21, 2022. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

On Monday, at least 200 Cubans demonstrated in front of Costa Rica’s embassy in Havana to protest new visa requirements for Cubans transiting through the Central American country en route to Nicaragua.

The news: After Managua relaxed visa rules for Cuban nationals in November, demand for Havana-San Jose flights has skyrocketed. Many planes have many connections in Latin American countries nearby.

  • Many demonstrators were incensed by Costa Rica’s decision last week to force Cubans to get a transit visa.
People crowd near Costa Rica embassy after the country imposed visa requirements for Cubans in Havana, Cuba, February 21, 2022. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

What they’re saying: “We are requesting a transit visa as citizens with the right to travel, and they are … asking for requirements that no Cuban can comply with,” said Redel Quevedo, who had travelled 600 kilometres (372.82 miles) from Las Tunas, in eastern Cuba, to the embassy in Havana.

  • “All Cubans are giving everything to be able to make the trip,” Quevedo said in an interview as he waited under the hot Caribbean sun for a response from Costa Rican authorities. 
  • According to regulations displayed outside the Costa Rican embassy in Havana, applicants for a transit visa must give criminal records dating back ten years and demonstrate “economic solvency,” but it was unclear what proof was necessary.
  • “We are going to be in Costa Rica for seven or eight hours,” said Oliet Dominguez, of Havana, who said his flight to Nicaragua involved connections in Panama, Costa Rica and El Salvador. “I think that this is an act of xenophobia against us.”
  • A request for comment from Costa Rica’s embassy in Cuba was not immediately returned.
  • Costa Rican authorities have previously stated that the transit visa requirement was made to ensure “orderly and respectful migration.”
People take pictures using their mobile phones of a list with visa requirements for Cubans in front of the Costa Rica embassy, in Havana, Cuba, February 21, 2022. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

What’s going on: On Monday, Cubans at the embassy said they were going to Nicaragua to shop or for vacation.

  • According to posts on the classified website Revolico and several people at the embassy, air ticket rates to the Central American country have more than tripled to as much as $3,500 in the three months since Nicaragua dropped the visa requirement for Cubans. That’s a lot more money than the average Cuban annual wage.
  • Cuba’s economy has been pummelling by US sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in significant food and pharmaceutical shortages as well as the worst anti-government demonstrations since Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959.
  • According to US immigration data, the economic crisis has prompted an increase in the number of Cuban migrants attempting to enter the US.
  • Cuba claims to support lawful, orderly, and secure migration, blaming US policy for inciting Cubans to risk their lives by fleeing the country.
  • Cubans have been discouraged from seeking to move to the United States by Washington.
People using their mobile phones take pictures of a list with visa requirements for Cubans imposed by the country, in front of the Costa Rica embassy, in Havana, Cuba, February 21, 2022. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli
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