By Luis Manuel Galeano
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MANAGUA, Nicaragua _ A Central American regional bloc will take up the issue of some 2,000 Cuban migrants denied entry by Nicaragua on their way to the United States, Costa Rican authorities said Thursday, in a case that has ramped up diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
Foreign Ministers of SICA nations are expected to meet Tuesday in the capital of El Salvador, where the bloc is headquartered, and will consider the issue as a humanitarian rather than a security concern, Costa Rican officials said.
“The countries have reacted in a positive and supportive way,” Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez said. “They have understood that the humanitarian aspect is at stake and should be tackled, comprehensively, by the entire region.”
Earlier in the day, Nicaragua accused Costa Rica of attempting to avoid discussion of the issue at SICA. Nicaraguan government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo, who is the wife of President Daniel Ortega, read a statement saying Costa Rica had tried to “systematically block” Nicaragua’s request.
Nicaragua’s foreign minister, Samuel Santos, said Costa Rica never warned his country more than 1,900 Cubans were about to show up at the border, where they have been stuck for several days. He said that was why they were denied entry.
“Not a single letter did we receive about that,” Santos said.
Nicaragua closed its southwestern border with Costa Rica at Penas Blancas on Sunday and soldiers forcefully pushed the Cubans back from the frontier, hours after Costa Rica issued humanitarian transit visas to the migrants.
The Cubans say they do not want to stay in Central America but rather are trying to reach the United States.
The Caribbean island nation has seen a large uptick in the number of its people heading for the United States in the months since Washington and Havana announced a partial detente and re-established formal diplomatic relations.
Many would-be Cuban migrants fear the thaw could bring an end to unique U.S. rules that let nearly all islanders who reach American soil stay in the United States. U.S. officials say no change is currently in the works.
The government of Nicaragua, a close ally of Cuba, has echoed Havana’s accusations that U.S. migratory policy for Cubans is to blame for the flow.
On Tuesday, Costa Rica proposed the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” to facilitate Cuban migrants’ travel through the region toward the U.S.-Mexico border.