Central American foreign ministers met Tuesday in hopes of finding a solution for the estimated 3,000 Cubans who have been stuck in northern Costa Rica since Nicaragua barred them from passing more than a week ago.
Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister Manuel González, speaking at the meeting of the Central American bloc of nations, SICA, in El Salvador, called for a broader approach to the growing crisis.
“This is a regional humanitarian issue that should not be seen from the perspective of security or as a bilateral issue between the states that are involved,” he said in a statement.
Costa Rica has asked for a “migration corridor” through Central America that would allow the Cubans to reach their destination in the United States.
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Nicaragua’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dennis Moncada on Tuesday, however, reiterated that his nation would not allow the Cubans to enter the country.
El Salvador’s Foreign Ministry late Tuesday said no solution had been reached but “progress has been made.”
Nicaragua has accused Costa Rica of provoking the humanitarian crisis by allowing Cuban migrants to form a critical mass that overwhelmed border guards earlier this month. Costa Rica, in turn, has said the migrants wouldn’t be an issue if Nicaragua would simply open its borders and allow them to pass.
“We should not play with the legitimate aspiration of these people who are seeking a better life,” González added. “No country should have the right to stop a solution to this problem.”
Foreign ministry officials from Ecuador, Mexico, Cuba and Colombia — all nations along the Cuban migration route — also attended the event.
The political impasse is raising tensions in the region and focusing attention on the U.S. 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which provides residency and benefits to islanders who can set foot on U.S. soil.
Cubans have been heading to the United States in droves this year, amid fears that their special status might come to an end amid improved ties between Havana and Washington.
Cuba has long denounced the policy, saying it is responsible for brain drain and sparks dangerous migration attempts, including the thousands of people who try to cross the Florida Straits every year in rickety rafts.
The U.S., for its part, has said it will uphold the policy.
Rosario Murillo, Nicaragua’s first lady and a spokeswoman for the country, accused Costa Rica of “using the crisis” to justify the Cuban Adjustment Act, which she said was “designed and maintained by the United States as part of the embargo against Cuba,” according to state-run media.
Many of the migrants stuck at the Peñas Blancas border crossing in Costa Rica began their journey in Ecuador — one of the few nations that doesn’t require visas for Cubans — then continued overland through Colombia and Panama, before making their way up through Central America.