14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 4 May 2016 — Mexico continues to grant “exit permits” to Cuban migrants arriving in Mexican territory from Central America, according to comments made to 14ymedio by an official of the National Institute of migration in Tapachula, Chiapas. On Tuesday, the Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minrex) released in a statement saying that a memorandum of understanding between the two Nations to “ensure a regular, ordered and safe migration” was now in effect.
The document Minrex is referring to is part of a set of agreements signed by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, during Raúl Castro’s last visit to Mexico with the purpose of strengthening relations between the two countries.
The publication of the official note triggered alarms among the thousands of Cuban migrants scattered across the continent, for whom Mexico is a necessary stage on the way to the southern border of the United States. The media never had access to the document, signed last November during Raúl Castro’s visit to Mérida, although the note of the Cuban Foreign Ministry clarifies that its purpose is to “enhance the cooperation between the two countries in the fight against illegal migration.”
This newspaper got in touch with Chiapas’ 21st Century Immigration Station, and an official who asked not to be identified said that they have no instructions to stop granting exit permits to Cuban migrants.
Mexico’s Foreign Secretary confirms that he is aware that the agreement has taken effect, and said that it is an update of what was already in effect. However, officials were surprised by the Minrex announcement and said they are considering issuing a public statement.
Luis Enrique Pastrana is the owner of the Plaza Emmanuel Inn in Tapachula, Chiapas. He has devoted himself for some years to hosting dozens of Cuban migrants seeking to reach the immigration station. As he said to 14ymedio, “Cubans fear that the exit permit will be withdrawn but so far everything remains the same.”
According to Pastrana, on Tuesday 21 Cubans who were staying in his hostel received the document, and this Wednesday another 11 guests have arrived who plan to follow the same path.
“Every day many Cubans arrive and replace the ones who leave, although people are fearful since a rumor is spreading saying the laissez-passer, as they call it, won’t be issued anymore,” he said.
After crossing the Guatemalan border, Cuban migrants gather outside the immigration offices from six in the morning and into the afternoon to receive the document authorizing them to travel through Mexican territory, with the condition that they must leave the country within 20 days.
Rosmery Valledor is a Cuban architect who was stranded in Panama. From 2012, she lived in Venezuela but she decided to emigrate because of the difficulties she was going through there. As she says, “the situation in that country is unsustainable.”
Valledor spent more than one month in Panama until she succeeded in continuing on her journey across Central America in a clandestine way.
For her, the most difficult thing about the journey was “the terror to which we are subjected by the coyotes (guides).” The young woman says it is “a journey for which you need not only money but also a lot of courage.”
“We were afraid that once we got there they would not want to grant us the laissez-passer, but we went to the immigration station and they agreed that the next morning we would be assisted without any problem,” she added.
According to the Mexican daily La Jornada citing IMN (Mexican Immigration), since the end of October of last year 7,455 Cubans have appeared before the country’s immigration centers, an unusually high number since records have been kept. Of these, 243 were sent back to the island.
Contacted by telephone, an official of Cuba Embassy in Mexico said he knew nothing about the matter and referred it to the press officer, who did not answer calls.
Translated by Alberto