Amid the ongoing migration crises in Latin America, there are a few high profile individuals who observers are quick to blame. Of course, Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and Danny Ortega of Nicaragua are the destructive and violent authoritarians that occupy headlines, but what’s often left out of the conversation is the ‘neighborhood’ response, not from the region’s governments, but from their citizens.
This week in Costa Rica, a nation widely regarded as the most stable in the Central American community, an ephemeral outburst of xenophobia and violence illuminated some of the deeper issues of the Latin American migration crises.
“Apparently motivated by false and inflammatory online messages, they had come to confront Nicaraguans who had fled their country and turned the park into a base camp, a place to receive free meals and coffee from local churches and charities.
“Get out Nicas!” the crowd chanted, according to videos posted online later. Fights broke out. More than 40 people were arrested, government officials said.
The confrontation that unfolded on that Saturday afternoon last month has shaken a country known as a relative oasis of peace in a tumultuous region where mass migration and gang warfare are common. The arrival of thousands of Nicaraguans in recent months — fleeing President Daniel Ortega’s violent crackdown on protesters — has laid bare undercurrents of xenophobia in Costa Rica and prompted the first major crisis for President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, who had just completed 100 days in office.
His administration is investigating whether Ortega’s government, or its supporters on either side of the border, were involved in fanning the anti-immigrant flames.“