HAVANA (TIP): Hundreds of furious Cubans chanting and brandishing air tickets have protested outside Ecuador’s embassy in Havana over new visa restrictions designed to stop Cuban migrants travelling through the region to the US.
It comes with 3,000 Cubans languishing at Costa Rica’s border with Nicaragua after that country closed its border to them, triggering a regional crisis over what to do with desperate Cubans travelling through South and Central America in the hopes of making it to the US.
Police watched on as about 500 people on Friday demanded they be refunded the money they had forked out for the air tickets, with the new Ecuadoran visa restrictions expected to come into effect on Tuesday.
“If we can not get into Ecuador, if there is no solution, we want our money back,” teacher Yeanneth Nunez, 31, said.
Nunez said she paid USD 1,200 to go on honeymoon with her husband in the coming days – a vast amount by Cuban standards. The demonstrators were careful not to directly blame the government of Ecuador, which is a close ally of Cuban President Raul Castro.
Rafael Correa’s government justified the new visa measure as an attempt to discourage the illegal migration of Cubans who use Ecuador as a springboard to travel to the United States on a long and dangerous journey.
The Ecuadoran consul in Havana, Soraya Encalada, had little sympathy. “It is beyond our control whether or not people have been able to reschedule their flight dates,” he said.