Since the beginning of the month of November, a difficult situation has developed as a result of the arrival to Costa Rica of an increasing number of Cuban citizens, coming from various Latin American countries, with the intention of emigrating to the United States.
Several thousand Cubans who left Cuba legally – and likewise entered a first destination country, from where they initiated irregular travel – find themselves at this time in an illegal situation in Central and South America, as they attempt to reach the Mexican border with the United States.
This irregular emigration is organized through networks of traffickers in persons operating in the region, responsible for acts of violence, extortion, harassment and other crimes, of which Cubans become victims in their attempt to reach the United States, after a dangerous journey of no less than 7,700 kilometers, crossing eight borders illegally.
The Government of the Republic of Cuba has expressed its concern and has maintained contact with the countries involved in the search for a rapid, adequate solution, as was indicated in the statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Relations this past November 18.
Our country’s position on this issue was clearly expressed during the meeting of eight member countries of the Central American Integration System (SICA), held November 24 in El Salvador, to which additionally invited were Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and Cuba. Advocated there was a comprehensive solution to this situation, and the manipulation of the Cuban emigration issue by the United States was denounced.
All of these countries demanded the adoption of immediate, energetic measures to prevent illegal migratory movement through their territories, and expressed their opposition to the “wet foot-dry foot” policy, the Parole Program for Cuban Medical Professionals, and the Cuban Adjustment Act, which for political reasons encourage illegal, unsafe, disorderly emigration from Cuba, and discriminate against Latin American and Caribbean emigrants, especially unaccompanied boys and girls, who are deported and become the victims of abuse, family separation and the violation of human rights by U.S. authorities.
The increase in the number of Cuban citizens who, having traveled abroad legally, attempt to reach U.S. territory after irregularly passing through Latin American and Caribbean countries, is associated with totally unfounded speculation that, as a result of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, the migratory privileges enjoyed by Cubans in this country, in accordance with executive policies and current legislation, may be eliminated.
The so-called “wet foot-dry foot” policy and the Cuban Adjustment Act have been in effect in the United States for decades now, conceding Cuban citizens preferential migratory treatment which is not afforded any other person in the world, thus encouraging attempts to reach U.S. territory in an irregular manner, with the certainty that once they have arrived, they will be admitted automatically and immediately.
This is based on an exceptional, politicized and discriminatory focus with respect to immigrants from other nations in the region and the world, which is also incongruous with the existence of diplomatic relations, the process of dialogue underway between Cuba and the United States, and incompatible with the announced policy change toward the island.
It must be recalled that the United States government has historically used its migratory policy as a weapon against the Revolution, and has, for political reasons, encouraged emigration from Cuba, causing loss of human life, hijackings of boats and aircraft, the commission of violent criminal acts, the occurrence of migratory crises, and the theft of talent.
This demonstrates that the motivation of Cuban émigrés is fundamentally economic, as occurs in the majority of countries from which emigrants come.
In January of 2013, Cuba announced the updating of its migratory policy, which included measures to facilitate travel abroad for its citizens, as part of the implementation of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines approved by the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba and the National Assembly of People’s Power. The implementation of these migratory regulations has proceeded in a normal fashion.
Over the last three years, almost half a million Cubans have traveled to other countries for private reasons, representing an increase of 81% as compared to the period 2010-2012. The principal destinations have been the United States, Mexico, Panama, Spain and Ecuador. These journeys have in their majority been for temporary stays to visit relatives, work for a period of time, or undertake other activities.
In this context, the migration of Cuban health care professionals constitutes a concern for the country. Specialties of such importance as anesthesiology, general surgery, intensive care, pediatrics, neurosurgery, nephrology, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics and trauma, neonatology, and others have been seriously affected by the unplanned departure of vital medical personnel.
To acquire all the skills and knowledge demanded for the current scientific development of these highly specialized professionals, years of study and work experience are required, making their training in a short period of time impossible.
The government of the United States, which deprived Cuba of half of its doctors in the first years of the Revolution, established in 2006, during the administration of President George W. Bush, the Parole Program for Cuban Medical Professionals, the only one of its kind in the world, directed toward damaging our country’s international medical cooperation programs, and depriving Cuba and beneficiary countries of these vital, much-needed human resources.
It has the perverse objective of encouraging Cuban medical professionals to abandon their missions in other countries, actively facilitating their emigration through the use of U.S. embassies to promote this.
Additionally, the facilities offered by various countries, especially private clinics, to Cuban health personnel, promote the settling of this qualified workforce abroad, and networks devoted to the selection and financing of our professionals have been detected.
Since the triumph of the Revolution, it has been a priority of the Cuban government to guarantee high quality health services to the Cuban people, to which significant human and material resources have been devoted.
Cuba’s healthcare system is universal, free of charge and accessible to the entire population, despite the economic limitations we face, which are aggravated by the deprivations caused by the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by the United States.
Given the necessity of guaranteeing our people efficient, high quality health care services, as well as mitigating the effects produced as a consequence of the selective, politicized migratory policy of the United States toward Cuba, and the growing non-planned contracting of Cuban doctors in other countries, a decision has been made to implement regulations established by Decree 306, October 11, 2012, regarding travel abroad, for private reasons, by medical professionals in various specialties, who perform activities of vital importance to the population’s health care services, and scientific-technical work.
This does not mean that specialist doctors can not travel or reside abroad, but rather that the date of their departure will be analyzed, taking into account the replacement of each professional, to allow for organization of the workforce to guarantee accessibility, quality, continuity and stability in the functioning of health care services.
The Ministry of Public Health is responsible for the implementation of this regulation, which will become effective as of December 7, 2015.
It is reiterated that healthcare professionals who have left the country in accordance with current migratory policies, be it for economic, family or professional interests, including those who are victims of deceptive policies which led to the abandonment of their mission and their country, may rejoin the Cuban health care system, if they so desire. They are guaranteed a placement similar to that previously occupied.
Additionally, as a contribution to the organization of current migration, and at the request of a number of regional governments, the government of the Republic of Ecuador has decided to reestablish the requirement of a visa for Cuban citizens traveling to this country, a measure which was announced November 26, to become effective December 1, 2015.
Other countries of transit have stated that they will adopt measures to assure adherence to the law, to protect their borders, and to energetically suppress trafficking networks and organized crime.
As has been reiterated on a number of occasions, and again proposed, to no avail, during the round of migratory talks held November 30 in Washington, the government of the Republic of Cuba, once again, demands the elimination of the “wet foot-dry foot” policy, the Parole Program for Cuban Medical Professionals, and the Cuban Adjustment Act, which are the fundamental cause of illegal emigration, trafficking in emigrants, and the irregular arrival to the United States of Cuban citizens who traveled abroad legally – in violation of the letter and spirit of migratory agreements signed by the two countries.
This would be consistent with the current bilateral context, would favor the national interests of both parties, and contribute to the normalization of migratory relations between Cuba and the United States.
The government of the Republic of Cuba reiterates its commitment to legal, orderly, safe emigration, and will continue to guarantee Cuban citizens the right to travel, emigrate, and return to the country, in accordance with the requirements of migratory legislation, if they so desire.