Extortions, Kidnappings And Limbo: Daily Life Of Cubans Stranded In
Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 14 February 2017 — Hundreds of Cubans
were stranded in Mexico after the Obama administration ended the
wet-foot/dry-foot policy that favored Cuban's immigration to the United
States, but for the 90 who are detained at the 21st Century Migrant
Station in Tapachula, and for their relatives in the United States, the
American dream has become a nightmare of extortion and disappearances. A
hope against all hope.
"For weeks a person has been calling us to ask for money if we want to
see our families again," says the mother of one of those stranded who
asked not to be identified to protect her son.
The woman, who lives in Miami, recounts how within half an hour of
receiving a call from her son from the Migration Station the phone
started to ring from different numbers in Mexico.
The voice on the other side of the device identified himself as "lawyer
Padilla." She said, "He tried to learn the names of our family members
and told us he could help get them out of there for a sum of money."
To Yuniel, stranded in southern Mexico, those responsible for these
calls are the agents themselves from Mexico's National Institute of
"We all know that the migration officials have some way of knowing the
numbers of the people we call in the United States. Somehow, they figure
out the numbers and then take advantage of that to extort the families,"
The telephones set up for international calls at the Migration Station
are public, but at least three relatives of different migrants consulted
by this newspaper affirmed that they had received calls in which people
calling themselves officials asked them for money for the freedom of the
"We are afraid for their fate, they are in the hands of mafiosos. Last
week three Cubans 'disappeared' from the same prison. As of today, we
haven't heard anything from them," says the mother of a Cuban migrant.
An IMF official confirmed to 14ymedio that there are currently 90 Cubans
at the 2st Century Migration Station. Of these, 59 asked for protection
before a judge and 23 asked for refuge from the Mexican authorities. The
remaining eight are awaiting the decision of the Cuban embassy in that
country. If Havana recognizes their citizenship, under migratory
agreements between the two countries they must be deported back to Cuba.
With regards to the absence, since last Wednesday, of three Cubans
(Armando Daniel Tejeda, Daniel Benet Báez and Yosvany Leyva Velázquez)
the official said that it was an escape, which is why they are not
considered missing. So far the relatives of the Cubans do not know the
whereabouts of these migrants.
With regards to the accusations against the INM officials, the
representative of the Mexican government made it clear that "they are
lies." According to her, the immigration agents do not even have guns or
"They (the Cubans) are very desperate. We aren't trying to justify
ourselves, but we believe that is the cause. "
"Two of them had sought refuge and one was waiting for the legal
process. Both of them escaped and the corresponding authorities were
It was the migrants themselves in the 21st Century center who discovered
that three Cubans were missing and, given the silence of the
authorities, they began a protest that was brutally repressed, according
to those stranded. The police and the Mexican army participated in
putting down the revolt.
"They were beaten, their blankets and mattresses were taken away,
forcing them to sleep in cement bunks. They are being watched and held
as if they were criminals," the migrant's mother told the newspaper.
"My son may disappear, just as those have disappeared," she adds.
Last week a group of eleven Cubans was kidnapped by a criminal gang and
later released under conditions not made clear in Reynosa, northern Mexico.
Corruption prevails in Tapachula, according to the testimony of Yuniel,
one of the stranded, who has been waiting for more than a month for a
safe conduct to continue to the north of Mexico.
"Receiving money from abroad is impossible without mediations," explains
the migrant. If you do not have the corresponding visa, the transfers
made by Western Union carry a charge from locals who are awarded a
commission of 5% for the transaction.
The hope that Trump will reinstate the wet-foot/dry-foot policy or
declare an amnesty for stranded Cubans is increasingly remote, according
to Yuniel, even though that the number of Cubans arriving in Mexico from
Central America "has taken a nosedive."
"All that's left for me is to surrender to the authorities and ask for
political asylum. I have nothing to lose because I have lost
everything," he says.
Some relatives in the United States who have contracted legal services
in Tapachula to avoid the repatriation of the stranded complain of the
slowness of the processes and even of scams.
"The attorney José Roberto Escobar Ross allegedly filed an protection
petition for our relatives not to be repatriated to Cuba, and demanded
the payment of $120. To this day, they are still being detained," says
the girlfriend in Miami of one of those held in Tapachula, Karla Ramírez.
Escobar, via telephone, explained that he has in his hands the 59
protection orders for Cubans and that he is doing his best to get them
released as soon as possible.
"The judge gave Migration three days to solve the case of the Cubans but
until now we see no response, they haven't even been released," he said.
The INM official made clear that there will be no releases until the
legal proceeding has been held and a judge determines the fate of the
"It is not the fault of the INM that they are detained. By law, these
people cannot be released until the trial is held." It costs Mexico to
for these people to be there, to feed them, to care for them and so on."
In the case of Cubans who asked for refuge, the National Commission for
Refugee Assistance is responsible for analyzing their cases.
For Ramírez, the girlfriend of one of the detainees, this is a maneuver:
"They are trying to delay their release as much as possible so that they
have no choice but to return to Cuba or they run out of money. It's a
hell for us Cubans."
Source: Extortions, Kidnappings And Limbo: Daily Life Of Cubans Stranded
In Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -