HAVANA, (Reuters) – Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis arrived in Cuba yesterday with plans to increase trade overshadowed by what to do with nearly 5,000 Cuban migrants stranded in his country.
The Cubans began arriving a month ago on their dangerous 7,000-km (4,400-mile) overland trek from Ecuador to the Mexican-U.S. border, where Cubans are given legal passage into the United States.
In brief comments to reporters on his arrival, Solis, holding a small Cuban flag, said his trip was meant to complete Costa Rica’s normalization with Cuba, extend his country’s outreach to the Caribbean and promote trade.
When a reporter asked about the migrants, Solis responded, “That will be one of the topics on the agenda.”
The visit was planned well before the crisis. Costa Rica re-established relations with Cuba in 2009, the last country in Latin America to do so.
When the United States reached detente with Cuba a year ago, it led to a spike in Cuban emigration, partly due to fears the Americans would end the special treatment that grants them residence with relative ease.
The issue reached crisis proportions when Costa Rica broke up a gang of human smugglers, leaving the Cubans in the lurch.
Costa Rica closed its border after arresting the smugglers, then granted the Cubans temporary visas to pass through.
But Nicaragua, a country further to the north, refused to follow suit, leaving Costa Rica with an ever growing number of migrants.