Panama Closes Three Border Crossings Cubans Use To Reach the United States

More than 195,000 migrants, including almost 500 Cubans, have used this route in pursuit of the American dream

An official of the Colombian Ombudsman’s Office on the Astí trail fenced with barbed wire / Colombia Ombudsman’s Office

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 July 2024 — Panama closed three unauthorized border crossings on Wednesday, which more than 195,000 migrants – including 500 Cubans – have used to make the crossing to the United States this year.

With the support of 300 units of the National Border Service (Senafront), points were blocked on the coasts of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. In addition, barbed wire was placed on the short cuts that lead to the area of Hito de Chucurti, bordering Colombia. Several migrants have shared images on social networks of the barbed wire fence that prevents them from continuing on their way. According to Senafront, the objective of the measure is to channel irregular migration towards the Cañas Blancas crossing, which leads to the community of Bajo Chiquito.

The agency denied that the migrants had destroyed the wire fence. “It’s a video from 2019,” they explained, alluding to a recording that is circulating on social networks, “when, as a result of external situations, the crossing was closed at the border landmark of La Miel in the Caribbean.

At his July 1st inauguration, President José Raúl Mulino warned that Panama “will not be an open path for thousands of people who enter illegally backed by an entire organization related to drug and human trafficking.” The president specified that entry into the country will not be allowed “without a passport or valid document.”

The border closure came days after Panama’s Foreign Minister, Javier Martínez Acha, signed a memorandum of understanding and immigration cooperation with Alejandro Mayorkas, US Secretary of Homeland Security. The agreement includes the transfer of 6,000,000 dollars to develop the Mulino Government’s plan to repatriate migrants who do not have a legal basis to be in Panama.

The new director of the National Migration Service of Panama, Roger Mojica, explained that repatriation or expulsion from the country will depend on the immigration record, taking into account those who do not have the financial support to stay in Panama or have pending cases, according to Prensa Latina.

This year, Panama has deported 406 people, four of them from the Island. In addition, Migration has arrested, without specifying the reasons, four other Cubans.

The Colombian Ombudsman, Julio Luis Balanta Mina, warned this Friday of the humanitarian consequences of closing passage through the Darién jungle. He urged taking into account the health risk of migrants who cross.

“We urge the national government to request that the Panamanian authorities observe and be aware of how important the postulates of international human rights law are,” said Balanta, who insisted on the need to offer international protection to migrants.

Two months ago, the Colombian Ombudsman’s Office published an analytical study in which it simulated the closure of the Darién Gap and its humanitarian impact, putting the right to health on high alert, since it registered 502 health complaints between January 2020 and April 2024, the EFE agency noted.

This document was published before Mulino took power, when he communicated his intention to “close” the passage of migrants through the Darién jungle, which is complicated, since it is a great natural barrier of more than 500,000 hectares shared by Colombia and Panama. It is also the only point of the American continent not crossed by the Pan-American road or any other road.

Emigdio Pertuz Buendía, community leader in Capurganá, in the Colombian department of Chocó, and legal representative of the Major Council of Black Communities of the Acandí River basin and northern coastal area, Cocomanorte, said in an interview on NTN24, that “it was never imagined that a president would make the decision to place barbed wire to prevent the transit of migrants. This migration is supposed to be irregular but not illegal.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.