News and Facts about Cuba

Stranded Cuban Migrants Brought by Air, Bus to Mexico

Stranded Cuban Migrants Brought by Air, to Mexico
By SONIA PEREZ D. AND JAVIER CORDOBA, ASSOCIATED PRESS CIUDAD HIDALGO,
Mexico — Jan 13, 2016, 5:13 PM ET

Nearly 200 Cuban migrants traveled by air and across land through
Central America and into southern Mexico on Wednesday, resuming their
long-delayed journey toward the United States after several months
stranded in Costa Rica amid a diplomatic tiff with Nicaragua.

One by one the 180 Cubans descended from chartered buses and were
processed by Mexican authorities, who issued transit visas granting them
20 days to leave the country.

Sergei Acosta, a 35-year-old farmer, was the first to set foot on
Mexican soil. He said he was elated despite a long night of by
plane from Costa Rica to El Salvador, and from there by bus through
Guatemala to Ciudad Hidalgo in Mexico.

“I’m not too tired. I’m very excited to have arrived,” Acosta told The
Associated Press. He said he left Cuba in search of economic
opportunity, and was optimistic about landing a job in the United States
and then sending for his wife and daughter to join him. “It’s the need
to have a better life.”

The air and bus bridge is the first stage of a pilot program to relieve
a logjam of some 8,000 Cubans who have been trapped at the Costa Rican
border with Nicaragua, which closed its frontier to them in November.

The first flight took off from the northern Costa Rican city of Liberia
late Tuesday as part of a regional agreement to overcome Nicaragua’s
refusal to let them through by land.

The migrants appeared to get special treatment along the way: They were
greeted by El Salvador’s foreign minister upon arrival in that country
even as, when they got to the Guatemalan border, they saw a busload of
Salvadoran migrants headed the other way after being back from
the United States.

The Cubans won’t have to worry about that due to a U.S. immigration
policy that lets them stay if they reach the United States. That special
status initially raised some resentment in Central America nations whose
citizens are often deported from the U.S. if they enter without visas.

But the Cubans’ trip was smooth so far. Private chartered transportation
and transit visas had already been arranged for them.

Ruben Chil Cruz, who left his wife and two children behind in Cuba, said
he first flew to Ecuador and entered as a . From there, a
smuggler helped him reach Costa Rica by boat and by foot.

“I saw the opportunity and I took it,” said Chil, who aims to reach
Miami, a large Cuban enclave. “I think I will get to the United States
by Sunday at the latest.”

But Chil said he wasn’t sure exactly how he would cross Mexico, known
for vicious attacks on and kidnappings of migrants, especially those
from Central America. He said he didn’t plan to use a smuggler in the
country and hoped immigration officials there could give him advice on
how to travel to the U.S.

Officials have said that while they arranged the logistics for the first
of the Cubans to leapfrog Nicaragua, it was up to the migrants to cover
the cost of their passage.

Chil Cruz said the air and bus trip to the Guatemala-Mexico border set
him back $555, which he paid out of his savings.

“It has all been very quick, thank God,” he said.

For most Central American migrants, the trip takes weeks or sometimes
months.

from Cuba has spiked dramatically in the year since Havana
and Washington announced they would restore diplomatic relations. Many
Cuban migrants say they’re making the journey now for fear that detente
could bring an end to the U.S. policies that given them privileged
treatment.

Backers of United States’ Cuban Adjustment Act say it offers refuge to
islanders fleeing Cuba’s communist system. Havana argues that the policy
encourages Cubans to risk dangerous migratory voyages and causes a brain
drain of many the country’s youngest and brightest.

Nicaragua, a close ally of Havana, closed its southern frontier to the
Cubans on Nov. 13.

Arnobis Tellez also left behind three children and a grandchild in Cuba.
Like Chil, he wasn’t sure how he would cross through Mexico.

“These last months have been terrifying, because nobody thought this was
going to happen,” Tellez said. “We thought that by this time we would
all be in the United States.”

Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez said he wished all migrants
had such a happy story.

“With this action (for the Cubans) we are showing dignified treatment
and respect for ,” he said, “which are things that the
administration of El Salvador’s … is asking for our own
migrants.”

———

Associated Press writer Javier Cordoba reported from La Cruz, Costa Rica.

Source: Stranded Cuban Migrants Brought by Air, Bus to Mexico – ABC News

abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/cubans-begin-pilot-transfer-costa-rica-mexico-36258481

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