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Cuban nationals stranded en route to US

Talks have stalled between Latin American ministers as thousands of US-bound Cuban migrants are left stranded. The Costa Rican foreign minister has called the situation "a serious humanitarian crisis in the region."

After two rounds of meetings on Tuesday, Latin American ministers failed to find a solution for the nearly 3,000 US-bound Cubans stranded on the Costa Rican side of the border with Nicaragua.

"I express my regret for the lack of results after this long day," Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez told reporters as he left the talks in El Salvador.

"One country, Nicaragua…blocked the possibility of reaching a reasonable agreement," Gonzalez added.

Without the agreement, thousands of Cuban migrants remain stranded in Costa Rica and are

prevented by Nicaraguan soldiers and police to cross over the border.

Gonzalez said the situation could turn into "a serious humanitarian crisis in the region," as hundreds of newly arriving Cubans reach Costa Rica each day.

Broadened talks

Nicaraguan and Central American ministers broadened the talks to include ministers from Cuba, Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador, after calls for a "humanitarian corridor" were rejected in Nicaragua.

Nicaraguan Deputy Foreign Minister Denis Moncada responded to the decision to close the border to the Cuban migrants, saying it was "unalterable," which prompted Costa Rica to accuse Nicaragua of "intransigence."

Moncada said in the first round of talks that "Nicaragua confirms its position of not supporting the legitimization of illegal policies," and demanded that "the Costa Rican government take all appropriate measures to withdraw all (Cubans) from our (Nicaraguan) border zones."

He also blamed the US for the situation, and demanded that Washington engage in "dialogue and respect" with Latin America and the Caribbean.

Nicaragua, a Cuban ally, has accused Costa Rica, a pro-US country, of meddling in its "sovereignty" by providing the Cuban migrants with transit visas and demanding that they be allowed to travel through.

Migrating to the US

The Cuban migrants have made it clear their only goal is to make it to the US, which has a longstanding policy of giving asylum to Communist-ruled Cuban residents who make it to the US.

However, getting to the US is difficult. Many migrants fly to Ecuador, which doesn't require Cuban visas, then travel through Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica, with the goal of then moving through Nicaragua, Central America, Mexico and finally over the US border.

The recent reconciliation of relations between Cuba and the US has prompted thousands from Cuba to attempt the move, as fears spread that the US could end it's preferential policy for Cubans wanting to acquire asylum in the US.

smm/bw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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