November 30th, 2015 (EFE) Some 300 Cubans gathered Friday in front of the Ecuadorian Embassy in Havana to express their displeasure at Quito’s decision to impose a visa requirement on tourists from Cuba.
From the early hours Friday, citizens arrived at the embassy, which was surrounded by a police cordon, to demand answers about the new measure adopted by the Quito government amid a migratory crisis of more than 3,000 Cubans stranded on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Their chief worry was knowing whether the visa application would also be valid for those who bought plane tickets before learning of the new measure, which takes effect Dec. 1.
Up to now, Cubans did not need a visa in order to travel to Ecuador.
“We know that most of those who are in Costa Rica went by way of Ecuador – it’s the easiest route because they don’t ask for visas. But we don’t all want to go to the United States,” said Graciela, a Havana native with an airline ticket to Ecuador for Dec. 1 and who fears that the “years” of savings invested in the flight will suddenly vanish.
“The embassy tells us that we have to apply (for a visa) on the Internet, and that’s not easy here. Someone has to take responsibility for the money we’re going to lose,” Susana, another would-be traveler, said.
Ecuadorian Consul Soraya Encalada together with other diplomats went into the street to face the crowd and explain that her government’s position is not to obstruct trips but “to prevent human trafficking.”
About the new visa requirement, she said it is a “circumstantial situation” for which they have implemented a “special strategy for Cuba,” which requires all interested parties to register their data on the embassy Web site in a “simplified” procedure to speed up the application process.
“This is an abuse and now I don’t want to go anywhere. All I want is my money back, because I see that I’m going to lose it thanks to a bad decision by Ecuador,” said Fernando Corona, who noted that they should have announced this change “at least a month in advance.”
“I don’t see it as protection, we don’t all want to go to the United States. And my rights?” asked Lianet, who said what most travelers want is “to go somewhere else to discover and buy things you can’t find in Cuba.”
Ecuador said its decision is the result of a meeting of the Central America Integration System that took place last Tuesday in El Salvador, in which Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico and Colombia also took part.
More than 3,000 Cubans are currently stranded in Coast Rica due to Nicaragua’s refusal to allow them to cross its territory en route to the United States.
Cubans have traditionally flown from the Caribbean island to Ecuador, from where they travel “irregularly” to Costa Rica, which issues a temporary visa allowing them to cross the country and reach Nicaragua.