Impromptu Meeting Between Raul Castro and International Red Cross

El presidente del Comité Internacional de Cruz Roja, Peter Maurer, y el mandatario cubano Raúl Castro. (@JPSchaererICRC)
The president of the International Committee of Red Cross, Peter Maurer, and Cuban President Raul Castro. (JPSchaererICRC)

An impromptu meeting this Wednesday between Cuban President Raul Castro and the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, suggests that the issue of the almost 3,000 Cuban migrants stuck in Costa Rica is one of the objectives of Maurer’s visit, the first at this level in more than 40 years.

Officially, Maurer has been in Cuba since Monday on a trip seeking to strengthen cooperation on humanitarian issues. In the statement pervious to his arrival, his program included only interviews with Health Minister Roberto Morales Ojeda, with the Chief of Staff of the Civil Defense, Major General Pardo Guerra, and with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to the official report, Castro and Maurer “spoke about the good level of relations between Cuba and the [Red Cross], as well as other topics related to the humanitarian field.” The meeting was also attended by the head of the ICRC regional delegation for Central America and Cuba, Juan Pedro Schaerer, and on the Cuban side by the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) General Leopoldo Cintra Frias, and the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcelino Medina.

Last Week the Red Cross of Costa Rica issued a call for solidarity to collection donations for Cubans stranded in that country after the Nicaraguan government blocked their passage on their route to the United States, where they can enter without a visa thanks to the Cuban Adjustment Act. In a communication, the Red Cross Chief in Costa Rica, Idalberto Gonzales, said that, “the Red Cross opens its doors to Costa Ricans so that they can lend their support to the Cubans in our country.”

The humanitarian organization especially requested toothbrushes, combs, toothpaste, disposable razors, bath soap, toilet paper, sanitary towels, bath towels, disinfectants, plastic utensils, shampoo and sunscreens. It also opened the opportunity to make monetary donations to Red Cross bank accounts in Costa Rica.

At this time, Costa Rica has set up seven shelters near the Nicaraguan border, where some 1,300 Cubans are being housed. Others are still being housed in churches, community centers and gymnasiums. More than 400 have refused to go to the shelters and remain the Peñas Blancas border post.

The Nicaraguan Red Cross is also waiting for the Cubans to be able to cross the border, to assist them with accommodation and food.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, founded in 1863, is defined as an impartial, neutral and independent organization. Its humanitarian mission is focused on protecting the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflicts and armed violence, as well as offering them assistance. The ICRC delegation for Mexico, Central America and Cuba, based in Mexico City, also works to ensure that people with major risk factors and vulnerability, especially migrants, are protected and assisted, and that their fundamental rights and dignity are respected.

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