© ShahBlogger. Individuals wait their flip for visa procedures close by the embassy of Panama in Havana, Cuba, June 13, 2022. Image taken on June 13, 2022. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini


By Dave Sherwood

HAVANA (ShahBlogger) – Cuban Idalberto Echavarria maneuvered his spouse Olga in a wheelchair to the entrance of the road at Terminal 2 of Havana’s airport, dodging baggage and a sea of individuals bidding farewell to family and friends.

The crowded terminal, a launch level for Cubans making their method by air to Nicaragua then overland to america, is one barometer of the frenzy emigrate from the communist-run island nation.

For a lot of, like Echavarria and his spouse, it has additionally grow to be a final resort as Cuba’s financial disaster deepens for ever and ever.

“There are different methods, however you want cash or a member of the family exterior the nation,” Echavarria informed ShahBlogger in an interview on the airport, referring to a refugee program launched by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden in January that requires a U.S.-based sponsor.

He and his spouse, who’s unable to stroll as a result of a leg an infection, don’t have any retirement funds, no well-placed family in overseas international locations and little entry to authorized entry packages, he mentioned.

“For us, this was the one choice, and essentially the most tough,” mentioned Echavarria. The couple plan to make the approximate 1,500-mile (2,400-km) trek by means of Central America by automobile.

The USA – the highest vacation spot for Cuban migrants -has since 2022 elevated authorized pathways to migration for Cubans, together with visa entry in Havana, in an effort to scale back unlawful migration.

However greater than a dozen interviews with would-be migrants this week at Havana embassies, municipal notaries and the airport counsel many, like Echavarria, both lack the means to use for visa packages obtainable on-island to Cubans or have misplaced persistence ready for his or her flip.

Regardless of the lengthy onward journey, Nicaragua since 2021 has required no visa of Cuban migrants, and thus stays the best path to get to the U.S., a number of of these interviewed informed ShahBlogger.

Whereas Key West in Florida lies little greater than 90 miles from Cuba by water, the route is seen as dangerous and, not like journey through Mexico, doesn’t provide authorized pathways for entry.

Echavarria mentioned he didn’t wish to cross the border illegally and would make an appointment for an asylum software through a U.S. authorities app, CBP One, which migrants can entry from Mexico.

Others informed ShahBlogger desperation was such that any route would do, even when it meant making an attempt to cross the U.S. border illegally.

Just some minutes from the airport, self-employed taxi driver Alain Ferguson, 27, mentioned he had been left with out buddies by this most up-to-date exodus.

“Go to the airport… nearly everyone seems to be leaving by means of Nicaragua,” Ferguson mentioned. “They do not care how they go, they simply wish to get out.”

Nicaraguan officers didn’t instantly reply to a request for statistics on the variety of Cubans coming into the nation by air.

However final month, Cuba’s overseas ministry mentioned it had detected “noticeable development” within the motion of its migrants throughout irregular routes north by means of Central America in previous months, although it didn’t launch statistics.

About 10,700 Cubans have been encountered on the U.S.-Mexico border in September, up from round 6,200 a month earlier, based on U.S. authorities statistics. Ranges of border arrivals, nonetheless, are nonetheless decrease than a yr in the past, when fewer authorized avenues existed to use from overseas.


Artist Ernesto Perez, 51, informed ShahBlogger he had waited since 2015 for his flip to enter the U.s. legally beneath a household reunification program. When that did not work, he utilized for the sponsorship program.

“Not having a response since 2015, one will get determined,” Perez mentioned exterior the U.S. embassy in Havana as he stood in line for his long-awaited interview. “It crossed my thoughts to undergo Nicaragua … however I made a decision to attend a bit of extra and I obtained fortunate.”

Cuba blames the long-running U.S. commerce embargo and Trump-era sanctions for fueling the financial disaster and the exodus of greater than 400,000 Cubans leaving for america within the final two years.

The U.S. says the sanctions are vital to advertise human rights and basic liberties in Cuba and that it makes exceptions for humanitarian functions.

Senior U.S. Division of State official Brian Nichols mentioned on social media this week he was “involved by studies of a dramatic enhance in Nicaragua-bound constitution flights that facilitate irregular migration from Cuba and elsewhere to america.”

The U.S. mentioned there could be penalties for these concerned however didn’t specify what these could be.

For a lot of Cubans, nonetheless, Nicaragua stays the one viable choice for getting off the island, mentioned Yoany Bilbao, a 28-year outdated auto mechanic.

“Anybody who (can apply for the sponsorship program) waits for it. But when they can not, they undergo Nicaragua,” he mentioned.

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