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  • A group of Cuban migrants, who were illegally occupying a park, face deportation after being found to be in Ecuador without status, Quito, July 6, 2016.

    A group of Cuban migrants, who were illegally occupying a park, face deportation after being found to be in Ecuador without status, Quito, July 6, 2016. | Photo: EFE

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In an exclusive interview with teleSUR, the head of the association of Cubans in Ecuador talked about the reality of Cubans migrating to Ecuador.

Following the controversy over Ecuador deporting irregular Cuban immigrants back to their homeland, the Association of Cuban Residents in Ecuador denounced the efforts to portray Cubans as politically persecuted in their country Tuesday.

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“We are not against the freedom of movement, which is a human right. But movement always must be legal and secure; it should respect the laws of both countries,” Rafael Nodarse, the association's president, told teleSUR.

The association also blamed the U.S. administration for encouraging Cuban migrants to illegally cross the southern border of the U.S. via Central America.

"When a citizen goes to the United States, Washington says he or she 'migrated'—except citizens from Cuba, Washington says he or she 'escaped' Cuba," added Nodarse. "We demand the United States stop their silence and put an end to the Cuban Adjustment Act, a macabre law."

The Cuban Adjustment Act, popularly known as the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, was adopted by the U.S. in 1966 and updated in 1995. The policy encourages Cubans to leave the island unlawfully by automatically granting them “legal permanent resident status”—a unique status that applies only to Cubans. This has resulted in Cuban citizens risking their lives trying to cross the stretch of sea separating the two countries in unseaworthy vessels or traveling to third countries to try to obtain visas to enter the U.S.

Last Thursday, Ecuador's police arrested 63 Cuban migrants, among the more than 600 Cubans who had set up a makeshift camp in a park near the historic center of Quito. Because of their irregular migratory status, they were deported back to Cuba Monday.

The protests started two weeks ago outside the Mexican embassy, as a group of Cuban citizens demanded Mexico grant them visas so they could reach the U.S. They also asked the Ecuadorian government to pay for a charter flight to Mexico. Both countries refused.

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Nodarse added that the protesting Cubans were "blackmailing" the governments and "selling Washington the image of politically persecuted Cubans."

Ecuador and Cuba are strong allies, with Cuba providing ongoing medical assistance to the Andean country, sending an emergency team after last April's earthquake that devastated the coast of Ecuador.

From 2012 to 2016, more than 16,738 Cubans became residents in Ecuador and more than 26,000 obtained a temporary visa.

During the presidency of President Rafael Correa, Cuba and Ecuador have reaffirmed their excellent bilateral relations on migration and many other fields.

However, Ecuador was forced to require visas for Cuban vistors in November 2015, after a large influx of Cuban nationals began arriving as part of their journey to the United States, worried that with the restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, the policy that facilitates Cuban migration to the U.S. will be modified.

The governments of the United States and Cuba are in the process of dialogue for the full normalization of relations, but the association says Washington has allocated more than US$750 million dollars from the federal budget to fund programs that undermine and discredit the Cuban Revolution.

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