September 11, 2008 / 10:03 PM / 11 years ago

Mexico and Cuba eyeing clampdown on U.S.-bound migrants

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Cuba and Mexico are discussing how to clamp down on the flow of illegal Cuban immigrants through Mexico to the United States, Cuba’s Ambassador Manuel Aguilera said on Thursday.

Aguilera said the two countries could reach an initial agreement on undocumented migration when Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque visits Mexico in the next few weeks.

“What we are discussing is how to get both countries to increase our cooperation so that the migratory flow between Mexico and Cuba is safe, legal and orderly,” Aguilera told a news conference.

Thousands of Cubans slip into Mexico by boat each year, mostly to the Yucatan Peninsula, without exit permits from the Cuban government.

They then make their way overland to the United States where, unlike other Latin American immigrants, they only have to make it onto U.S. soil and request political asylum to be let in.

If arrested in Mexico, the Cubans are often released, and then they head north.

Cubans seeking to get to Florida traditionally packed into boats and motored across the Florida Straits, but U.S. drug patrols in the area have made it harder to get through. The longer route via Mexico has become more popular in recent years.

Human traffickers are believed to be working in conjunction with drug smuggling gangs that control organized crime and police protection rackets up and down Mexico.

The Cuban ambassador said talks were centered around cracking down on migrant-smuggling gangs while also making it easier for academics and business executives to get visas to travel between the two countries.

Reporting by Manuel Carrillo; writing by Catherine Bremer; editing by Mohammad Zargham

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