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Ortega gives Cubans a quicker migration path north — and gives the U.S. a poke in the eye

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega
Alfredo Zuniga
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega

Nicaragua lifted its visa requirement for Cubans, which may lead many more of them to go there and then head for the U.S. — potentially adding to the border crisis.

Nicaragua this week has dropped its visa requirement for Cubans — a move that isn’t just about immigration but also poking the United States in the eye.

The government of left-wing Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega announced Monday night Cubans can enter the country now without visas. That promises to be a boon to many Cubans, especially private entrepreneurs who need to buy wholesale goods they can’t find in Cuba.

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Nicaragua, which two years ago made it easier for some Cubans to get temporary visas, has become a more important place for Cubans to make those purchases after the Trump Administration cut off extended, multiple-entry U.S. visas for Cubans in 2019.

But the new visa-free move for Cubans is also a jab at the Biden administration. That’s because lifting the visa requirement also means many more Cubans can now use Nicaragua as a safer, quicker launching point to migrate north to the United States.

Ortega knows that could add to the migrant crisis at the U.S.’s southern border. And that’s a way for him to hit back at the tough, targeted economic sanctions the U.S. has levied against his regime.

Those sanctions are a response to Ortega’s brutal dismantling of Nicaragua’s democracy. That includes jailing all his potential opponentsin the Nov. 7 presidential election, which allowed Ortega to cruise to a virtually uncontested win.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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