Havana, Mar 9 (EFE).- Hundreds gathered here Wednesday outside the Panamanian Embassy to protest Panama’s decision to require transit visas for Cubans intending to travel to the United States via the Central American nation.
The measure took effect just a day after it was announced in Panama’s official gazette and many in the crowd had tickets in their hands for Wednesday flights from Havana to Panama City.
Would-be travelers must apply for a visa at least 15 days ahead of their trip and the fee is $50, roughly twice the median monthly wage in Cuba.
The transit visa is good only for 24 hours and the holder must not venture out of the international terminal at Panama Tocumen International Airport.
The requirement will remain in place for three months, the Panamanian government said.
Efe journalists heard a Panamanian diplomat who came out to talk to the protesters tell them that all of the relevant information was available on the internet.
Panama joins neighbors Costa Rica and Colombia in imposing a visa requirement on Cubans amid a surge in the numbers of people trying to reach the US via Central America since last November, when Nicaragua established visa-free entry for travelers from Cuba.
Panama-based Copa Airlines recently stopped selling tickets on flights from Havana to Managua.
The Cuban civil aviation authority said last month that Aruba Airlines plans to start offering daily service between Cuba and Nicaragua.
The main driver of emigration from Cuba at the moment is an economy plagued by inflation and shortages and struggling to recover from the loss of tourism revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
US immigration authorities said that they detained 9,827 undocumented Cuban migrants in January, 13 times the number intercepted in January 2020.
So far this year, 861 Cubans have been repatriated to Cuba from the US, Mexico, and the Bahamas. EFE int/dr