14ymedio, Havana, 4 December 2023 — Unlike Cuba, Nicaragua is “a dictatorship that offers opportunities,” says a Cuban interviewed on the streets of Managua by the opposition newspaper La Prensa. Róger, 27 and originally from Camagüey, has decided to stay in that Central American country where he had arrived to continue along the “volcano route” to the final destination of hundreds of thousands of migrants: the United States.
Given the high financial costs and risks of this long journey, which can end in deportation back to the Island, the number of Cubans who decide to try their luck in a country with a regime very similar to the one they left behind is growing: without political freedom and with a socialist discourse, but where the capitalist economy gives some play.
“In the supermarket the strange thing is to go and not find a Cuban,” says Julio, a 14ymedio contributor in Managua. “In the last 15 or 20 days I have also met them at the barbershop, in line at a Subway to order, in a toy store, at the cinema, taking photos in the old center. Without a doubt, the vast majority are passing by,” he explains, although he does not rule out that many end up staying.
The La Prensa article tells several stories of Cubans who have managed to settle in Managua and set up businesses. This is the case of Róger, who, after traveling as a mule, buying merchandise in Nicaragua to resell in Cuba, decided to settle in that country.
Marina also came to the conclusion that, upon arriving in the United States, it would be a long time before she would be able to see her two children, who she left in Cuba
“Nicaragua, although it is said to be in a dictatorship, is very different of my country. There are opportunities here and if you know how to take advantage of them you will do very well. The second time I came I brought my wife and we decided to stay,” says Róger.
Marina, another Cuban who landed in Managua with the idea of continuing on to the United States, also decided to stay a few days in the country after noticing that the money she was carrying was not enough to cover the route, and she began selling sweets in a market in the the capital. “My goal was the United States, but I analyzed that with the sale I was doing well and I felt comfortable in Nicaragua (…). I still feel like I am in my country, but calmer,” she asserts.
Marina also came to the conclusion that, upon arriving in the United States, it would be a long time before she would be able to see her two children, who she left in Cuba. From Nicaragua, however, she has already traveled to the Island twice to see them.
Faced with the difficulties required to gather the funds to reach the southern border of the United States or start a business, staying in Nicaragua and trying to find work and get regular status has been presented as a third option, feasible for many.
Furthermore, with the recent cancellations of flights by several airlines that flew the route from Havana to Managua, many had to pay very high prices to get a ticket and have been left without enough money to continue their trip north.
“Now that the State has taken control of the matter, the transfer to the border is taking a little longer; so the Cubans have to spend two or three days in Managua”
Currently, from Cuba only the Venezuelan state airline Conviasa makes direct flights to Managua. Others such as Aruba Airlines, Air Century and Sky High have canceled their flights after Washington threatened to sanction those who encourage migration through Nicaragua.
Those who arrive in the country and intend to continue towards the border must assume a stay of several days in Managua, since, in an attempt to monopolize the profits generated by the transit of migrants, the Government of Daniel Ortega has prohibited private taxi drivers from transporting Cubans and Haitians to the border with Honduras.
“Now that the State has taken control of the matter, the transfer to the border is taking a little longer; so the Cubans have to spend two or three days in Managua,” says Julio.
“That is not from now, in any case what they are doing is finishing removing the private ones, because since the exodus began the Government has been directly involved in the transfer of the migrants,” the Nicaraguan argued then, adding he was not surprised by the measure.
Being so difficult to reach the border, it is natural that many have begun to settle in Nicaragua. While some even maintain the hope of one day raising the necessary capital to continue the route. Returning to Cuba, they say, is not even an option.
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