Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Penas Blancas border crossing

This is Mike...
Well we finally had to extend our tourist visa as 90 days was upon us already. We did, like the thousands of others do, and crossed Nicaragua's southern border with Costa Rica at the Penas Blancas check point. This time was different than past crossings for us, as we did this by foot instead of by SUV.  First of all, there is a 72 hour period you are supposed to leave Nicaragua for prior to re-entering. Of course we just walked over to Costa Rica and immediately back without any hang ups. On the Costa Rica side they did want proof of continuation of onward travel so a bus ticket or similar might come in handy at the border. The border guards looked at my kids in the eyes and let us in without further adieu. Many of the people entering just said they were with TransNica and they seemed to be OK without supplying any proof.
   The border is choked up right now with migrants from Cuba, Africa, and elsewhere. Nicaragua has closed its acceptance of these people since an incident about 3 weeks ago on the southern frontier where refugees shot at the Policia Nacional. In fact, right now anyone going to and from San Juan del Sur needs to carry their passports to get through the check points. Nicaragua is not going to allow the acceptance of anymore economic migrants passing through its borders, ultimately bound for the U.S. This move has exacerbated the problem of undocumented migrants on the Costa Rican side of the border. We were shocked to see the men, strong men, gangs of men just standing around waiting and waiting. This is a recipe for no good and the Costa Ricans have heavily armed police now patrolling their frontier. Likewise on the Nicaraguan side of the border there is now a strong military presence. One of the things we most like about Nicaragua is usually you never see the military and very few police. Unlike Mexico where police are everywhere, Nicaragua is a very safe country and it is unusual to see military or police. The refugee crisis is not just in Europe but now in Costa Rica.
   We were happy to get back into Nicaragua in under 2 hours and back to the easy-going pace compared to that of the tension on the Costa Rica side. In fact, if you did not know better you would think Nicaragua was a cleaner richer country if you just looked at the border. I hope Costa Rica can figure out what to do with all of these migrants before the men get restless. If you are traveling through the border there are enough police to make it feel safe, for now at least. I would probably not recommend traveling with a family at night through the border as the walk is 600 meters through unlit portions of struggling humanity. Costa Rica, with limited resources, truly has its hands full right now and I felt so bad for them.

No man's land between Nicaragua and Costa Rica

Walking over the border.

Truck are checked for migrants and other contraband.

The first time we saw Nicaraguan military at the border.

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