(Part X in Fusion’s special series on Cubans’ 5,000-mile trek to freedom. Full series at the bottom)
The Cuban traffic jam on Costa Rica’s northern border has started to inch forward again.
The Costa Rican government today announced that the first group of 180 Cuban emigrants was successfully airlifted out of Costa Rica and has arrived safely on Mexico’s southern border, after a 12 hour bumpy bus ride through El Salvador and Guatemala.
Now there are only 7,622 Cubans left to go.
“The Costa Rican government is satisfied with the goodwill of all the countries who have participated in this pilot program, which will continue with the goal of addressing this humanitarian situation by providing passage of these people who are only trying to get the United States,” said Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González in a statement.
In other words, thanks to everybody except Nicaragua.
Though yesterday's airlift was only the first flight of an estimated 43 charters needed to get all the Cubans out of Costa Rica and back on track to the United States, the Tico government is hopeful that traffic is once again starting to flow after a two-month pileup on the border. The entire airlift operation will cost an estimated $4 million, or approximately $555 per Cuban emigrant. Each Cuban is responsible for paying his or her own way out of Costa Rica, and they're on their own once they cross into Mexico.
The accumulation of Cubans on the Costa Rican border started in mid-November, when Nicaragua’s Sandinista government decided to militarize its southern border to prevent Cubans from continuing their journey to the United States. Since the U.S. and Cuba first announced a renewal of diplomatic relations in December 2014, a growing exodus of Cubans have been fleeing the island to try to make it to the United States before Uncle Sam puts an end to the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows any Cuban who arrives on U.S. soil to remain in the country. Most Cubans are now traveling to the U.S. by land via Ecuador, to avoid the dangers of crossing by sea or getting caught by U.S. Coast Guard interdictions in the Florida Straits.
Full Cuba Series:
- Exodus of Cubans walking to the US is quickly becoming the America's own refugee crisis
- How Ecuador became the bizarre trailhead for Cubans hiking to the U.S.
- Can Nicaraguan soldiers stop the surge of Cubans heading to the U.S.
- Cubans flood Panamanian jungle in desperate overland push to the United States
- Texas welcomes Cubans finishing 5,000 mile hike through the Americas
- Nicaragua's intransigence prevents regional solution to Cuban migrant crisis on Costa Rican border
- Ecuador imposes new visa requirements in attempt to stop flood tide of Cuban migrants
- Secret deal hatched to airlift 8,000 Cubans out of Costa Rica
- Stranded Cubans must pay $555 for airlift out of Central America
- Cuban traffic jam in Costa Rica has started to flow again