Hundreds of Cuban Migrants Are Stuck in Panama Without $805 to Travel to Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Cuban migrants stranded in Panama are waiting to buy their tickets to Mexico. (Courtesy)
Cuban migrants stranded in Panama are waiting to buy their tickets to Mexico. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 13 May 2016 — More than 300 Cuban migrants cannot pay their passage to Mexico or have only part of the money, a source in the Panamanian government who requested anonymity told 14ymedio on Friday. The migrants are in a temporary shelter prepared by the authorities in Gualaca (Chiriqui province), and so far it has not been decided what will happen with those who don’t manage to get together the $805 that Panama’s Copa Airlines is asking to take them to Ciudad Juarez.

Yuneisis Martell, a woman from Villa Clara stranded in Panama, says chagrined, “The majority have already left, those of us who are left are those who have nothing.”

“I don’t know what they are going to do with us, the problem is that many of us here lost money on the way, with the assaults, and what we had left went to paying for the stay and food in Pasa Canoas,” on the border with Costa Rica.

In recent days, more than 1,000 Cubans have flown to Ciudad Juarez, or are in the process of doing so, according to sources in the National Migration Service. Last Monday, the Panamanian government started the transfer of more than 3,800 Cubans who had been stranded in their country, as part of an agreement with Mexico.

Xiegdel Candanedo, representative of Caritas’ Social Pastoral in the Chiriqui province, told 14ymedio that this organization, belonging to the Catholic Church, will continue to support the Cubans. According Candanedo, the ministry has so far donated food, medicine and clothing, collaborating with the National Migration Service and the National Civil Protection Service.

Candanedo said his organization “is not in a position to spend thousands of dollars to help Cubans to reach the United States,” but said that at least four or five passages have been paid for by private donors through Caritas. “Today we have learned of the case of a family that has the resources to buy tickets for the parents, but needs to find the money for the passage of the child,” he said.

For Keila Ortega the hours in Gualaca don’t pass. Every time she sees a compañero leave the refuge, while she remains stuck there, she feels more desperate. “My friends have turned their backs on me and those who could help me right now are in a very difficult situation. They’ve already done enough.”

The women fears that in the end she’ll remain trapped in Panama. “There are those who say the Cuban-American members of Congress can’t help us. I would like anyone reading this to remember that they, too, came from Cuba in the same situation as we are in, and it might touch their hearts,” she said.

A Miami businessman is making efforts to collaborate with helping these migrants, although he declined to comment as long as his plans aren’t firm.