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

DanielOrtega2020.jpeg
Alfredo Zuniga
/
AP
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 opponents in the Nov. 7 presidential election, which allowed Ortega to cruise to a virtually uncontested win.