US-bound Cubans finally fly out of Costa Rica
San Luis Talpa, El Salvador
AFP photoA group of 180 Cuban migrants took a step closer to a new life in the United States early Jan. 13 after flying out of Costa Rica in a trial plan designed to blaze a path for thousands of stranded compatriots to follow.
In what they nervously hope will be the successful conclusion to a months-long odyssey through South and Central America, the Cubans landed in El Salvador and then boarded four buses in the early hours destined for the border with Guatemala, AFP reported.
The 109 men and 71 women are ultimately bound for the United States, which has a longstanding policy of accepting Cuban migrants.
If their arduous plane-and-bus trip is successful, other flights will follow as early as next week, transporting more of the 7,600 other Cubans stranded in Costa Rica.
The air bridge, organized by Latin American governments and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), became necessary when Costa Rica’s northern neighbor Nicaragua - a Cuban ally - closed its border to Cuban migrants in mid-November.
The 180-strong group boarded a chartered aircraft in Liberia, a northern Costa Rican city near Nicaragua’s border.
They arrived just over an hour later at El Salvador’s international airport southeast of the capital San Salvador, disembarking with smiles and small bags, and soon after were on their way to the Guatemala border on buses accompanied by a police escort.
After crossing Guatemala, the Cubans are to be dropped off at the border with Mexico with 20-day visas to make their own way to the U.S. border and to what they hope will be new lives in America.