14ymedio, Madrid, November 17, 2023 — The wave of Cuban migrants from Nicaragua could have its days numbered if the United States finally decides to take measures against airlines that operate charter flights between Havana and Managua. This Thursday, Eric Jacobstein, deputy undersecretary of the US Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs, told The Voice of America that Washington is “analyzing consequences” against these companies and he is already the second official to express himself in these terms in recent days.
“We are absolutely aware of these reports of an increase in charter flights arriving in Nicaragua from several countries and believe that no one should profit from the desperation of vulnerable migrants,” said Jacobstein, who was in Havana for the fourth round of immigration talks between the Island and the United States.
The official, the State Department oficial in charge of these issues in Central America and the Caribbean, told the media that there is genuine concern for the well-being of migrants who are exposed to “exploitation, abuse and trafficking by organized criminal networks.”
“What we are seeing are charter flights that go to Nicaragua full and return empty to Cuba. So this is not typical of tourism.”
“What we are seeing are charter flights that go to Nicaragua full and return empty to Cuba. So this is not typical of tourism, but of irregular migration,” he declared. Although the phenomenon has been going on for two years, since the Government of Daniel Ortega eliminated the visa requirement for Cubans in November 2021, Jacobstein now affirms that they are devoting a lot of time to “analyzing the precise tools that will be used” and he assured that there will be consequences, while expressly avoiding the word ‘sanctions’.
Just two weeks ago, the Undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian Nichols, offered very similar statements that cast doubt on whether the United States would finally decide to intervene in the exodus that Managua has facilitated to pressure the Biden Administration.
“We are exploring the full range of possible consequences for those who facilitate this form of irregular migration. We continue to urge the use of safe and legal pathways,” said Nichols at that time, and he is now joined by his colleague.
Between 2021 and 2023, more than 425,000 Cubans arrived at the southern border of Mexico, on their way to the United States. The route through Nicaragua has facilitated the avoidance of an even worse path, the one that involved crossing the Darién jungle, between Colombia and Panama, which many took in the previous migration crisis of 2015.
However, migrants have not stopped exposing themselves to other risks that remain in this section, smaller but equally dangerous, through Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, where they hand over their fate to coyotes and corrupt officials, in addition to exposing themselves to traffic accidents, scams and frauds.
Currently the only airlines that fly regularly to Nicaragua from Cuba are Aruba Airlines and Conviasa
Currently the only airlines that fly regularly to Nicaragua from Cuba are Aruba Airlines and Conviasa, from Venezuela with a stopover in Havana, but other companies privately operate the routes that Washington now wants to put a stop to.
In recent weeks, various information has emerged about the lucrative business that Nicaragua is doing not only with Cubans, but also with Haitians, who use Managua as a starting point for their trip. Illegal fee charges and an attempt by the government to monopolize the transportation business by prohibiting taxi drivers from transporting migrants are among the complaints made.
Two weeks ago, Haiti banned charter flights to Nicaragua, but it is not foreseeable that the Cuban Government will decide to act in the same direction, so the United States could opt for measures that prevent these companies from entering its airspace or intervening in their accounts in US banks.
Between August and October, Managua’s Augusto C. Sandino International Airport received 268 flights from Port-au-Prince, despite the fact that there is no officially open route between both countries. In August, 30 flights were registered between Port-au-Prince and Managua, with 100 in September and 138 in October, according to Nicaraguan political scientist and consultant Manuel Orozco, director of the Migration, Remittances and Development program of the Inter-American Dialogue.
From those 268 flights, 31,475 passengers disembarked and in that same period 54,671 Haitians passed through the border of Mexico and the United States, which means that 57.8% began their route in Managua, according to the consultant. Ortega “is offering the country as a bridge between Haiti and the United States, which is convenient, because it is less risky, although more expensive to go directly to Managua,” he noted.
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 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.