By Ángel Guerra Cabrera, May 6, 2016
The holding in Panama of almost 4000 Cuban migrants, a number which will be rising, has prolonged and threatens to worsen the political crisis created last November when something similar happened in Costa Rica. On that occasion, problems seemed to be solved when El Salvador and Guatemala authorized transit of the travelers by land and air to Mexico, on their way to the United States. The three governments declared the measure to be an exception, and not to be repeated. For its part, Costa Rica closed its border with Panama by means of a strong police contingent and that’s the situation now. It’s the same now as Nicaragua’s that had done so before.
Nevertheless events have shown that that solution only served as palliation, since the main cause of the crisis is still in force. Say what you will, the Cuban Adjustment Law, promulgated by the United States in 1966 with the objective of destabilizing Cuba, is a permanent stimulus for irregular, unsafe, and chaotic emigration of its citizens to that country.
Now in the middle of April Costa Rica was experiencing its effects again, when more than a thousand Cubans entered its territory by force from Panama. Costa Rica’s government had to return them to the neighboring country that, curiously, keeps its border open.
San Jose called for a meeting for attempting a solution for the crisis. The vice-chancellors of all the Central American countries attended – except for Nicaragua – and also Ecuador Mexico, and the United States. It became clear there that Costa Rica, just like Nicaragua, would keep its southern borders closed and that Mexico was not disposed to accept the new irregular Cuban migrants on the move to the neighboring country in the North. San Jose authorities ended up formulating a declaration that, among other points, affirmed that that various U. S. regulations promoting entry into that country, and giving migrants privileges, incite disorderly Cuban migration and serve as a perverse incentive to migration. They also favor conditions leading to illegal traffic in persons. This is a judgement the Cuban foreign ministry itself might agree with.
Similarly, there is another view on the same theme offered by an editorial in the New York Times: the unique migratory privileges that Cubans enjoy are beginning to create problems for the United States and for other countries because of the contrasting ways they deal with migrants, even children, from the rest of the countries. The paper added that the Cuban Adjustment Law is an obstacle to the process of normalization of relations with Cuba and that if the Congress doesn’t do anything, Obama possesses executive powers to choose not to implement it.
We can imagine what would happen if the United States were to decree a similar law for Mexicans and Central Americans allowing them to enter that country freely via the overland route and granting them automatic permission to work, facilities for establishing themselves, and the right to [permanent] residence.
At the same time Cuba is being subjected to a criminal blockade – the main obstacle to its economic development – that country suffers effects from that other aggressive U. S. regulation from half a century ago, the Cuban Adjustment Act. And it continues even after Obama’s re-establishment of relations with the island and a certain easing of the asphyxia [caused by the United States]. Why does Washington not issue a much greater number of [entry] visas to Cubans? Or does it maintain its ill-conceived insistence on making sure people enter its territory irregularly so as to discredit Cuba?
Prolongation of those punitive measures by the messed-up and brutal North causes grave danger to the island just at the time it is experimenting with change to its economic model within the socialist idea, but without having yet entirely given up the previous model or let the new one mature.
But if the government of Panama would have closed its border to the passage of the Cubans – the way Costa Rica and Nicaragua did – we would have been able to avoid prolongation of this crisis. Many doubts about Panama’s behavior are raised. There are the thousands of dollars per head the islanders have to spend reaching South America by air and paying off traffickers in order to get to the isthmus. But beyond that, one wonders: who pays for sheltering them there, feeding them, providing medical attention, and all over the course of months? And this is all very different from the mistreatment, abuse, and harassments visited upon other migrants.
It looks like the Panamanian vice president and foreign minister Isabel De Saint Malo maintains extremely close contacts within the U. S. government, and officials of that country preserve close ties with the counterrevolutionaries in Miami. Would that be the way it is?
Translated by Tom Whitney
Source: La Jornada