A group of Cuban migrants in a warehouse in northern Colombia. They are waiting for the Colombian government to resolve their situation. Meanwhile, another group of Cubans isn’t waiting. They’re making their way through the dense Colombian jungle toward Panama. Story, via Aporrea:
Dozens of Cuban migrants stranded in Turbo, northwestern Colombia, began a journey through the jungle en route to the United States via Panama following a rumor of their possible deportation and growing border controls in Central America, according to official sources on Thursday.
“The number of Cubans exiting through the Waffe port has grown in the last five days, there’s been more traffic,” Turbo government secretary Emélides Muñoz told AFP.
Between May 19 and yesterday, 7,903 irregular migrants exited via the port, most of them Haitians, Asians, Africans and Cubans. During that period, 290 Cuban nationals left Turbo heading for the Chocó rainforest, the government secretary said.
The irregular migrants arrived at the port of Turbo, where they paid 120,000 Colombian pesos ($38 US) for a one-hour boat trip to Sapzurro, in the municipality of Acandí, in the Chocó department, which borders on Panama, Muñoz said.
In Sapzurro, they began their crossing through the inhospitable jungle of Darién, where, according to authorities, they fell into the hands of human-trafficking networks and illegal armed groups, were attacked by wild animals, and battled against the typical inclemencies of the terrain.
“We have reports that in the jungles, there have been deaths, rapes of women, and abandonments,” said Father Manuel Gregorio, delegate of the diocese of Apartadó (Choco), who accompanied the migrants along their way through the jungle, to AFP.
The Cubans who have left the area are not among the 1200 who have been housed in a storage building of 200 square metres lent by a landlord in Turbo, according to a report by the People’s Ombud.
Aliex Artiles, one of the Cubans in the storehouse, told AFP that they will “keep staying in Turbo until they resolve our situation”.
The group has asked the government of Juan Manuel Santos for a plane to take them to Mexico so they can continue their journey to the United States from there, as US law offers migratory advantages to Cuban immigrants. The Colombian government has repeatedly turned down the request.
On Tuesday, Colombia announced a “shock” plan for their borders, against irregular migration specifically because of the large-scale arrival of persons using the country as a point of entry.
Colombia is a long way from the US, at least by land. And the crossing into Panama is treacherous (to say nothing of the conditions in Panama itself, which is probably no safer than paramilitary-ridden, gang-infested Colombia). There are about half a dozen countries to be crossed before reaching the Rio Grande, and there is no guarantee that even that crossing can be made safely, as the untold numbers of migrants’ skeletons in the southwestern US have made all too clear.
All told, it would be better for the Cubans if they went to Venezuela, where at least they would be welcomed and offered decent shelter by their ALBA brethren. But the political instability there, made in the USA, makes all the more ironic the desperation of the Cubans to reach Gringolandia instead. The decades-old US blockade of Cuba is the source of all their trouble, and yet, they will do literally anything to reach the country that is the true author of their miseries. Apparently the pull of all that gringo dinero is stronger than anything…even common sense!