Nicaragua blames Costa Rica as Cubans storm border

The Nicaraguan government complained November 15 that the border post at Penas Blancas, photographed April 12, 2011, was the site of "serious altercations" as "thousands of Cuban citizens" stormed the border and crossed illegally from Costa Rica (AFP Photo/Yuri Cortez) (AFP/File)

Managua (AFP) - Nicaragua said thousands of Cubans forced their way into its territory from Costa Rica on Sunday, accusing its southern neighbor of "deliberately and irresponsibly" flooding it with US-bound migrants.

The accusation came after Costa Rica said Saturday it was giving temporary visas to a group of about 1,000 stranded, penniless Cubans, telling them they had one week to cross the country and continue their journey toward the United States.

Nicaraguan police said thousands of Cubans stormed the Penas Blancas border post and illegally crossed into Nicaragua.

It said they crossed "by force," causing "serious altercations" and "material damages" at the border crossing.

"The Costa Rican government, in a deliberate and irresponsible action, hurled and continues hurling thousands of Cuban citizens at Nicaragua's southern border posts," leftist President Daniel Ortega's government said in a statement.

It accused Costa Rica of "unleashing a humanitarian crisis with serious consequences for our region."

There has been a surge in Cubans seeking to reach the United States since the two Cold War foes announced a historic rapprochement last December, raising expectations that Washington may soon end its policy of granting residency to Cuban immigrants who reach its shores.

Cubans seeking to leave the communist island for the United States are increasingly traveling overland through Central America and Mexico rather than risk crossing the Florida Straits by boat.

The migrants stranded in Costa Rica had flown from Cuba to Ecuador before working their way up through Colombia and Panama.

Costa Rica said last Tuesday it had dismantled a human trafficking ring that was charging Cubans $7,000 to $15,000 to send them to the United States.