QCOSTARICA – Good news for the Cuban migrants stranded in Costa Rica, at a press conference Friday at Casa Presidencial, Costa Rica’s President, Luis Guillermo Solis, Foreign Minister, Manuel Gonzalez and the Director of Immigration, Kathya Rodriguez, announced that next week direct flights to Mexico will begin for Cuban migrants who have been stranded in the country.
The President said the agreement was reached in Ecuador during the last summer of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), where he spoke directly to his Mexico counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, on how to solve the Cuban migrant immigration problem that began on November 12.
According to Solis, the government of Mexico is agreeing to flights from Costa Rica arrive almost to the United States border, either at Neuvo Laredo or Reinosa, with the possibility of moving between 500 and 600 people weekly.
For the flights to Mexico, priority will be given to families with children.
Pricewise, the flight to Nuevo Laredo would be US$805 for adults and US$575 for children; to Reinosa, the cost is US$750 for adults and US$520 for children.
“The ultimate goal is not for the (Cubans) to leave Costa Rica, rather that they arrive safely at their destination. We (the governments) are not coyotes (smugglers), we fight against the coyotes. Any criticism is just to be mean,” said Gonzalez.
The Mexico flights would leave either Liberia (Guanacaste) or San Jose, and includes the cost of transfers, airport fees, flight, food, health insurance and ground transportation from the Mexican airports to the U.S. border posts.
For her part, the immigration director said they have no exact number of Cuban migrants still in Costa Rica, staying at 33 shelters, in La Cruz, near the Nicaragua border. From the estimated more than 7,000 immigration says it has only 4,128 on record, suspecting many, becoming impatient and decided to take their chances with the coyotes crossing into Nicaragua illegally in making their way north.
The acceptance of Mexico of a direct arrival of the Cuban migrants is a change in policy. Since the start of the Cuban migrant crisis that began Nov. 15, 2015, when Nicaragua closed its borders on grounds of risks to its security and sovereignty, Mexico had maintained that it would not accept the migrants directly from Costa Rica.
Thus the government brokered a flight to El Salvador and then land transportation to the Guatemala – Mexico border, where the Cubans would then have 20 days (legally) to reach the U.S. border, this after Guatemala and Belize said no to Costa Rica.
The two flights to El Salvador, carrying 180 in the first on Jan. 12 and 184 on Feb. 4, were a success. Reports in Miami indicate most of the Cubans in the first group reached that city a few days after arriving in Mexico.
The Mexico flights would be on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while the flights to El Salvador would continue on Thursdays.