Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 1987 for his role in ending the armed conflicts in Central America, former President of Costa Rica Óscar Arias received 14ymedio at his home in San Jose and talked about the immigration crisis that keeps thousands Cubans stranded at the gates of Nicaragua, waiting to continue their journey to the United States.
Escobar. Is the Cuban migrant problem an exception in the region?
Arias. The principal problem of the 21st century will be emigration. For a very simple reason: Because the socioeconomic differences among the more than 7 billion people who inhabit this planet increase every day. Poverty needs no passport to travel. We see this in Latin America, especially among Central Americans who risk their lives to reach the United States. We see it with the South Americans, Haitians and, of course, throughout sub-Saharan Africa, to reach Lesbos, Lampedusa.
Escobar. Is the attitude of the people of Costa Rica and their government toward these “rafters on foot” something new?
Arias. Costa Rica, taking into account its size, is like Germany in Europe. We have been a country of asylum; we are generous, hospitable, supportive of those who for political reasons have knocked on the doors of our country. We are recognized as a nation of asylum, both for our Latin American brothers persecuted for their way of thinking, as well as for immigrants who flee their countries for economic reasons. We have a small colony of Cubans who arrived here in the past. Cubans have contributed greatly to Costa Rica, as have the Chileans who came here in the Pinochet era.
With regards to the Cubans who have arrived in recent weeks, the Costa Rican government has the obligation to provide them a roof, a shelter, as best we can, because they deserve it.
Escobar. Why do you think that these migrants have left the island and have undertaken such a dangerous route?
Arias. Frankly, they are fleeing a dictatorship. The only dictatorship that exists in Latin America, which we have been unable to end.
Escobar. Do you think that emigration could be reduced if there is a democratic change in Cuba?
Arias. This will end the day a Deng Xiaoping appears in Cuba. A man with the clairvoyance, with the vision and also with the courage to say “enough already” and “we are going to change the system, because the system does not work.” Because the system does not meet the expectations of being able to improve the living conditions of the Cuban people.
Escobar. Is it a failure of the implementation of the model or of the model itself?
Arias. Marxism failed and the practice of it ended, except in Cuba and North Korea.
Escobar. How can a new migration crisis be prevented?
Arias. If we want these things not to happen again, it is imperative that Cuba open itself, that it open itself to democracy and freedom.