EFE (via 14ymedio), Panama, 2 December 2015 — A small border town of Panama is experiencing a public health emergency due to the presence of more than 1,000 Cubans in transit to the United States, a flow that has quadrupled this year in the Central American country and which has exceeded 21,000 people, the government said on Wednesday.
The director of the National Immigration Service, Javier Carrillo, said that in Puerto Obaldia, a village of some 400 residents on the border with Colombia, there are now problems of access to food, shelter, sanitation and logistics, which the government is dealing with “for humanitarian reasons.”
The director of Panama’s National Civil Protection System (Sinaproc), José Donderis, told EFE that his agency is providing logistics and supplies such as water and food to the National Border Service (Senafront), which is the agency that “maintains control of the situation” in the Panamanian village.
Panama is “pacing” the departures of the Cubans stranded in Puerto Obaldia to join with “some 4,000 who are in Costa Rica,” waiting to continue their journey to the United States, despite Nicaragua having closed its border, Carrillo said.
The senior official felt that the restoration of diplomatic relations this year between the United States and Cuba, after half a century of tensions, has caused the wave of emigrants, because they fear the elimination of the so-called “dry-foot” privilege that gives access to the United States to any Cuban who touches US soil, regardless of how they arrive.
Carrillo explained that in Ecuador “there are 42,000 resident Cubans, and we don’t know how many of them want to go to the United States.”