Updated 06:13 AM EDT, Mon, Sep 21, 2020

Belize Latest Central American Country to Deny U.S.-Bound Cubans Passage

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Belize is the latest Central American country to deny entry to thousands of Cubans stranded in Costa Rica en route to the United States.

Costa Rica's foreign ministry announced Belize's refusal to adhere to their plans, which entails sending approximately 5,000 Cubans stranded in Costa Rica on private flights to Belize, from where they would travel through nearby Mexico, Reuters reported. Cubans have been stuck in Costa Rica since Nicaragua shut down their borders and refused to let them pass through its territory.

"We're deeply disillusioned with Belize's decision. Without doubt, this greatly complicates the situation," Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

Belize's pronouncement puts Costa Rica in a difficult situation, specifically because Mexico said its entry laws also prohibit it from providing entry to Cubans. However, Gonzalez said that Costa Rica will continue diplomatic efforts "with the aim of helping these migrants transit on Central American soil," urging Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama to put more efforts to impede the surge of migrants heading to Costa Rica, the news outlet added.

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis will visit Cuba later this month to discuss several matters, with the stranded Cuban migrants as the priority, Reuters noted.

In a regional meeting in November, Costa Rica proposed creating a "migratory corridor" that would permit Cuban migrants to get to the U.S. southern border through Mexico, but no agreement was reached, Miami Herald reported. After that meeting, Guatemala also closed its borders to Cuban migrants.

This week, Solis said he was utterly disappointed by the lack of solidarity in Central America and asked for assistance from Cubans already in Costa Rica.

"Please spread the word to other Cubans who are preparing to come through Central America and haven't arrived to Costa Rica yet to hold off until we can resolve your problems, those of you who arrived here first," he said, as quoted by Miami Herald. "Please tell the people that it's not due to lack of caring or understanding."

Costa Rica has established 26 emergency shelters in northern and central parts of the country and has been giving free meals and other services, but Solis said that they need international assistance to continue these efforts, the news outlet added. He also assured migrants that they will not be deported to Cuba unless they break local laws.

Many Cuban migrants started their journey to the U.S. by flying to Ecuador, which didn't oblige visas until this month, before heading across Colombia then Central America, Miami Herald wrote. The migratory flow is prompted by the U.S.' Cuba Adjustment Act, which provides residency and other benefits to Cubans who reach the country.

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