Nicaragua eliminates visa requirement for Cubans

Nicaraguan and Cuban flags flutter as Nicaragua's merchant ship Augusto Cesar Sandino docks at the Mariel port with humanitarian shipment of food, Mariel, Cuba, August 6, 2021. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

MEXICO CITY, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Nicaragua announced on Monday that it is lifting the visa requirement for Cuban nationals in a move which could make it easier for Cubans to migrate north toward the United States.

Nicaragua's Interior Ministry said in a statement it was immediately establishing a free visa for all Cuban citizens to promote commercial exchange, tourism and humanitarian family relations.

While Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has aligned himself with the Cuban government, its citizens previously needed visas to visit the Central American country.

In 2014, during the immigration crisis along the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, the Ortega government prevented Cubans from passing through its territory, a move many analysts considered a favor to Washington.

But relations between Managua and Washington have deteriorated sharply. Earlier this month, the U.S. government said Nicaragua's recent elections, in which Ortega was re-elected for his fourth consecutive term, were "illegitimate."

The United States has also imposed sanctions on 38 Nicaraguan officials, including Ortega's vice president and wife, Rosario Murillo, and three of their children.

Reporting by Mexico City Newsroom, writing by Laura Gottesdiener, editing by Lincoln Feast.

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