The Martís are providing critical information about an immigration crisis that has been fueled in part by rumors and fear of a change in official immigration policy. Waves of migrants from Cuba are traveling illegally through Ecuador, Colombia and Central America to reach the U.S. border, but for many, the Martís are the only source of information.
The Martís have been reporting on this emerging crisis since the earliest stages with daily updates on the perilous and often tragic journey many undergo. Special reports have covered human trafficking rings setup to smuggle and charge $7,000-$10,000 per trip, how drug traffickers are using Cubans as “mules” and the underground businesses that have been created in the wake of the migration.
In the last fiscal year alone, 43,159 Cubans have entered the US compared to the 24,278 a year before.
The first official Cuban government response to the situation in Central America came on November 17 – months after the crisis began – when Cuban state-run media read a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Relations. In that message, the Cuban government blamed the US for the migrant crisis, stating “[US] policy encourages illegal emigration from Cuba to the United States and constitutes a violation of the letter and spirit of the migration accords.”
Today, many Cubans are stranded in the jungles between Panama and Colombia and in the Chiapas region of Mexico. Honduran police show an inability to handle the amount of Cuban migrants streaming through villages and towns. Many more themselves in another kind of limbo.
In Nicaragua, security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at a group as they made their way to the border from Costa Rica. Nicaragua’s left-wing government has stated that Costa Rica’s transit visas to more than 1,700 Cubans had “unleashed a humanitarian crisis with serious consequences for our region”. The Martís have a team on the ground covering the situation in Costa Rica as Cuban diplomatic missions in both those countries decline to comment.
Radio Martí is regularly providing live phone reports and testimonies from Cubans who are embarking on this passage. Specialists such as immigration lawyer Willy Allen, Grisel Ibarra and border expert Silvia Longmire have provided analysis on the current Cuban exodus and discussed the present and future of US immigration policies towards Cuba.
Up to date immigration information and links of interest for all Cubans that wish to legally apply for a visa to the US can be found at martinoticias.com under the special section Politica Migratoria. The Martís routinely push on social media and air on radio and TV the public service announcements that clearly state that the United States of America does not support illegal immigration.
In coordination with the U.S. State Department, a special November edition of the free digital newsletter “El Pitirre” went out to over 360,000 e-mail recipients. It contained a recap of current Martí news reports regarding the migration crisis and also restated the official policy and procedures for legal entry into the US. A SMS text message stating that the US is not planning on changing its migration policy towards Cubans was sent to over 30,000 mobile phones in Cuba.
Television Marti’s “Cambio de Ruta” (Change of Route), which was was nominated for a 2015 Suncoast Regional Emmy Award, first aired in December of 2014 and collected various Martí reports from the region, documenting the human tragedy and abuses that Cubans suffer as they travel north. Ecuador, Cuba’s ally in the region, had eliminated entry visas for Cubans in 2008, helping kick-start this latest exodus. “Cambio de Ruta” .
A follow-up special program is in the works for December 2015 titled “CUBA: Migracion en tiempos de transicion” (CUBA: Migration in Times of Transition).