Nicaragua closed its border with Costa Rica and sent thousands of Cubans back to Costa Rica on Sunday, accusing its southern neighbor of "deliberately and irresponsibly" flooding the country with US-bound refugees.
Tension began after Costa Rica’s statement regarding giving of temporary visas to a group of about 1,000 stranded, poor Cubans who had been detained at its border with Panama demanding the right to proceed.
Thousands of Cubans stormed a border check point on Sunday and illegally crossed into Nicaragua, according to the Nicaraguan police.
Nicaragua is a close ally of Cuba and is led by former Marxist guerilla Daniel Ortega, who said Costa Rica’s actions had disrupted Nicaragua's national independence.
"The Nicaraguan government calls on the international organizations responsible to deal urgently with this complaint," Rosario Murillo, government spokeswoman and the first lady, said in a statement.
According to Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry, Nicaraguan security forces used tear gas on hundreds of Cubans who were trying to cross the border illegally earlier on Sunday. He also mentioned unconfirmed reports that shots were fired and two women and a small child were hurt.
Nicaragua's government said in a statement that when its forces turned back the Cubans, disturbances started and soldiers had been sent to beef up the border.
Under the arrangements from the Cold War era, there has been a surge in Cuban refugees due to them receiving special treatment upon reaching US. Cubans who are able to set foot on US soil are allowed to stay due to the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy but ones captured at sea are sent back.
"We don't want to stay in any of these countries, our aim is to reach the United States, that's our objective," said 33-year-old Alexei Cabezas, adding he left Cuba nearly a month ago and was also held up at the Costa Rica-Panama border.