Page last updated at 22:08 GMT, Monday, 20 October 2008 23:08 UK

Mexico blocks Cuban route to US

A Mexican navy sailor guards speedboats seized in Isla Mujeres that were being used to traffic Cuban migrants
The Mexican security services have struggled to deal with the traffickers

Mexico has agreed to tighten its immigration rules to crack down on the smuggling route used by Cubans who want to flee to the United States.

The agreement, signed at a ceremony in Mexico City, restricts the main exit route for thousands of Cubans as many travel via Mexico.

Mexico's past reluctance to halt the practice has led to tensions with Cuba.

More than 11,000 Cubans slipped into the US via Mexico last year, according to US authorities.

Correspondents say most evade immigration officials, and that the few who are caught are rarely deported. In most cases, they are given transit permits allowing them to reach the US border, they say.

Thawing of relations

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said: "We believe now there will be fewer attempts to use Mexico as an illegal corridor for Cuban immigrants trying to get to the United States."

Mexico and Cuba are victims of this policy that promotes illegal immigration from Cuba
Felipe Perez Roque
Cuban Foreign Minister

Earlier, Mr Perez Roque said the accord would also "allow us to work together to prevent and confront illegal migration, people trafficking and all related crimes".

"Mexico and Cuba are victims of this policy that promotes illegal immigration from Cuba," Perez Roque said, referring to the US Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) allows most Cubans who reach American soil to remain in the country and apply for residency after one year.

In recent months, the security services have been struggling with violence associated with the trafficking of the illegal migrants.

Correspondents say Mr Perez Roque's visit is being seen as a part of a thawing of relations between Cuban and Mexico, which were strained during the presidency of Vicente Fox, who left office in December 2006.

Cuba's foreign minister said he would invite the current President, Felipe Calderon, to visit the island in the near future.

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Country profile: Mexico
02 Sep 08 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Cuba
12 Jul 08 |  Country profiles

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