The Panamanian government has made a surprise announcement this week for Cuban nationals who will be passing through the Central American country on their way to another destination - the new measure requires ordinary cuban passport holders to obtain transit visas.
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The measure will come into effect from Tuesday 15 March, according to the official announcement.
According to the Panamanian embassy in Havana, passengers travelling before the aforementioned date would not require any type of visa, but those with tickets between 13 and 30 March must reschedule their flight and subsequently apply for a transit visa.
Consular attention for transit visas began on Thursday 10 March and will be given to those who have tickets from 31 March, and so on, the decree states.
Ernesto Soberón, director general of Consular Affairs and Attention to Cubans living abroad at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the purpose of the communication is to ensure that the interests of nationals travelling to third countries through Panama are taken into account, while respecting the sovereign decision of the Panamanian authorities.
In his words, broadcast on local television, the diplomat explained that through Executive Decree 19, dated 8 March 2022, the Panamanian authorities decided to establish the requirement of transit visas for Cuban nationals for a period of three months.
Numerous Cubans gathered on Wednesday in front of the Panamanian embassy in the capital seeking clarification on the establishment of a transit visa for the country. Officials at the embassy provided clarification on the new transit visa requirement for Cubans travelling through the Central American nation.
As a result from pressure from the cuban travellers who gathered outside the Embassy in the capital of Havana since the announcement, the Panamanian authorities were convinced to extend the original date of enforcement and establish a grace period until Tuesday 15 March.
For humanitarian reasons, the grace period for the application of Executive Decree No. 19 of 8 March 2022, which establishes the transit visa requirement for Cuban citizens, is extended until Tuesday 15 March 2022.
On Friday, the Continental Network of Cuban Residents in Latin America and the Caribbean (RCRLC) expressed its concern over the recent measure by the Panamanian government to establish this visa requirement for Cuban nationals.
According to Prensa Latina, the group highlighted in a communiqué issued in the capital, that points out that the measure affects those who travel mostly for personal or business purposes, while at the same time making these costs more expensive, including the completion of new immigration procedures.
The Executive Decree, also impacts those who live outside Cuba and make frequent trips to the Antillean nation to visit their relatives, just to make a stopover in a country where they are not going to stay.
For its part, Copa Airlines announced the day before that it will grant facilities in its services for Cubans who need to modify their trips due to the entry into force of Panama's new visa requirements.