SAN JOSÉ: Costa Rica on Friday partially pulled out of SICA, a regional body promoting Central American cooperation, after neighboring nations refused to help handle a growing Cuban migrant crisis.
President Luis Guillermo Solis announced the decision at a news conference on his return from a SICA summit in El Salvador that failed to reach agreement on the fate of thousands of US-bound Cubans stuck in Costa Rica since mid-November.
He also declared his country would be giving no more transit visas to any arriving Cubans and would instead “deport them to their country of origin.”
There are more than 5,000 Cubans in the country with the temporary visas, stuck near the border with Nicaragua, and the immigration service said another 2,000 were looking to join them.
Solis said Costa Rica was suspending its political participation in SICA, the Central American Integration System, because it “cannot participate in a body that does not respect a fundamental, basic principle that is solidarity.”
It was not pulling out entirely, though: Solis said Costa Rica would continue its economic participation in the body.
The political suspension underlined Costa Rica’s frustration over the migrant crisis, sparked by a November 15 decision by its northern neighbor Nicaragua — a Cuban ally — to close its border to Cubans.
That exasperation was already apparent when Solis abruptly left the summit in San Salvador before it finished, after failing to convince other members to help.
Nicaragua’s government issued a statement after Friday’s summit demanding “the United States find a solution” for the Cubans.
“The situation should be resolved not by Central America but by the United States since it is the one that has prompted many Cubans to want to try to get to it,” Nicaraguan Deputy Foreign Minister Denis Moncada told AFP.
Cubans managing to reach America benefit from a Cold War-era policy permitting them to live in the US.