The far-left-wing government of Nicaragua has few tools available in its continuing struggle with the United States, but it until recently had facilitated the arrival of 31,000 people from Haiti in 260 charter flights, all on their way to our southern border, according to the Associated Press.
This Nicaraguan-government-authorized flow has been characterized as the “weaponizing of illegal immigration”, and may have been an attempt to get the United States to loosen sanctions in exchange for cooperation on immigration (something which Venezuela successfully negotiated recently).
In addition, Nicaragua, like its Central American neighbors, has allowed the pedestrian flow of would-be illegals to transit its nation unmolested. They enter from Costa Rica on the south and then leave to the north and west into Honduras, all bound for our southern border. In these cases, Nicaragua ignores its own immigration laws to tolerate these movements.
The arrivals from Haiti fall into a different category, as the Nicaraguan government allowed people from Haiti to enter legally without a visa. The U.S., since it is hostile to Nicaragua, has no leverage on this influx.
The AP said that the airborne arrivals from gang-besieged Haiti paid about $3,000 a ticket for these one-way trips, with the passengers apparently feeling that this was a safer way to get to the U.S. than to make the trip by sea to Florida in the often marginal boats used by smugglers of would-be illegal entrants. That passage also was sometimes blocked by the ships of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force, essentially that nation’s coast guard.
Recently, presumably reacting at least in part to U.S. pressure, the government of Haiti has blocked the out-going flights to Nicaragua, according to another AP report.
Another possible motive of the Haitian government may be an attempt to preserve its own middle class; someone who can afford to pay $3,000 for the flight probably qualifies as a member of that class in that sad nation. While the government has ceded control of much of the nation to various gangs, it apparently still controls the airport at Port-au-Prince.
I have visited a number of Third World airports and this was the most bedraggled of them all. In order to do a bit of consulting in that country several decades ago, I rented a car at the airport. The guy from rental agency and I spent fully five minutes checking out the multitudinous dents on the vehicle so that I would not be charged for existing damage to the car. I can see how someone might want to leave that country.
An Example? Haiti’s move in this regard should be a model for other nations, and the U.S. should pressure other governments to take the same steps. Why doesn’t the U.S. threaten to withdraw USAID funding from nations that help the flow of illegals? Perhaps it could also threaten to block imports of, say, sugar or coffee from such places? Such threats may look like a return to “gunboat diplomacy”, but so be it.