14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 24 February 2016 — Fifty Cubans met in English Park, in the north of Quito, to request treatment similar to their compatriots stranded in Central America. The anonymous call to the meeting, which circulated among groups of Cubans on Facebook, asked all Cuban immigrants living in Ecuador to agree to “ask and demand” that they be sent to the United States, because, they say, they are fed up with “the abuses and contempt” in the Andean country.
According to the event organizers, their goal for the “First Meeting of Cubans in Ecuador” is to be heard about their “rights as human beings.” In addition, they affirm they do not want “any form of conflict within in the country,” and only want “to have a dignified life and to be able to choose the ideal place to do so.”
Pedro Sanchez, one of the participants, told 14ymedio via the Messenger app that the protesters set three objectives. First, push for an agreement between the Governments of Ecuador and Mexico to allow a safe transfer to the United States of those Cubans who are undocumented in the country; second to form a movement with a legal basis; and third, to advocate for the nine Cubans who are imprisoned in the Hotel Carrion and are also part of their struggle. The Hotel Carrion is an immigration jail where undocumented Cubans are sent while awaiting eventual deportation to the island.
“The main problem of the Cuban community is discrimination,” says Osvaldo Hernandez Cabrera. “Here they don’t want to legalize us or give us work.. We only ask that they give us a direct way to reach the United States via Mexico as they have given our brothers. We are not illegal, we are Cubans stranded in Ecuador,” he claimed.
To get a work permit, he adds, there are many requirements and most of the time, when they go in search of employment, they are rejected with a resounding “no Cubans are hired here.” “We are trying to send letters and get them to listen to us, otherwise we are ready to throw ourselves on the border with Colombia to get them to pay attention to us,” he said.
Hundreds of messages of support have been sent to these Cubans from different parts of Ecuador. “Some of us are not in Quito, but we are one hundred percent for the cause. From other places we will be supporting everything that is needed,” said Yordey Betancourt, an app user. Another young Cuban lamented the discrimination to which she is subjected. “Today a lady told me on the trolley (bus) ‘this is not your country.’ They mistreat us without reason, because Cubans are good. Give us an out and Ecuador will see that we will never return. We’ve run out of money and they no longer want us. Incomes, sales, taxis, trade… they all increased with us and now they do not want us.”
Vivian Hernandez Valdes supports the requests of the group: “What they are asking for is fair. The living conditions of many compatriots here are very poor and I think it is the right time for all Cubans who are in Ecuador and want to travel to the United States to get the same treatment as those in Panama and Costa Rica.”
The Cuban community in Ecuador grew starting in 2008 when the country lifted the visa requirement for travellers from the island. It is estimated that there are about 40,000 Cubans residing in the country. Ecuador was used as a springboard by Cuban migrants to reach the United States to take advantage of the Cuban Adjustment Act. According to official figures, in mid-2010 37,000 Cuban entered the country, a trend that continued rapidly increasing until Rafael Correa’s government decided to re-impose a visa requirement last December, after the immigration crisis that broke out in Central America.