The Number of Cubans Traveling to Nicaragua Went From 2,000 a Year to Nearly 45,000

The Oriental Market is one of the most visited commercial areas in Managua, Nicaragua. (La Prensa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 January 2021 — Some 44,829 Cubans visited Nicaragua in 2019, according to the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (Intur). The figure grew considerably in comparison to the two prior years, when only around 2,000 flew into Managua, the capital.

According to the latest Intur statistical bulletin reported in the local press, Cuban visitors represent 3.5% of the number of tourists that arrive each year, when in previous seasons they were barely 0.1%.

In 2019, Cuba was included in Nicaragua’s migratory category B which allows travelers to obtain a consular tourist visa without waiting for the approval of the General Directorate of Migration in Managua. Since then, thousands of Cubans have traveled to the Central American country to purchase all kinds of products that are missing on the island.

Clothing, footwear, household appliances, and vehicle parts are some of the most purchased merchandise to be subsequently sold on the black market in Cuba. In these times of a greater shortages in state stores, this flow of merchandise becomes vital, although the suspension of flights due to the pandemic has slowed down trade.

In December 2020, the Venezuelan airline Conviasa reactivated its flights between Havana and Managua. The Cubans, upon returning to Nicaragua’s well-known Oriental Market, the largest in Latin America, the first thing they did was “look for a cell phone chip with internet to call the island and show the merchandise,” reported the local newspaper La Prensa.

“For the merchants of the populous shopping center, the Cubans are a kind of blessing,” the newspaper noted. But “for other sectors, the greater numbers of them arriving only has a palliative effect for the economy since they are supplied from the informal market and often without paying taxes.”

Nicaragua has also become the new springboard for Cubans to reach the United States. Ads constantly appear in Facebook groups looking for alternatives or suggestions on how to get to Mexico from that country. Is it possible to travel without problems from Nicaragua to Mexico? What is the best way to avoid the checkpoints? How much will the journey cost? Is there work in Mexico? What cities do you recommend to live in? These are some of the most frequent questions asked by residents of the Island in the face of the desperation to emigrate.

With the elimination, in 2017, of the United States wet foot/dry foot policy that benefited Cubans, emigration from the island decreased considerably. However, the political change has not prevented thousands from arriving in northern Mexico with the intention of seeking asylum in the United States.

The election of Joe Biden as the new US president lit the hopes of Cubans after his announcement that he would transform the asylum system on the southern border.

Recent data indicates that migration continues, regardless of the restrictions of the Central American countries due to the pandemic. In the city of Tapachula, on the southern border of Mexico, last week a group of Cubans tried to get humanitarian visas that would allow them to legally enter the country and continue their journey north.


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