Costa Rica Negotiates to Fly Cubans to Belize, After Refusal from Guatemala / EFE, via 14ymedio

Cubans in a hostel in La Cruz, a few meters from the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. (Reinaldo Escobar / 14ymedio)
Cubans in a hostel in La Cruz, a few meters from the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. (Reinaldo Escobar / 14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio) San Jose, Costa Rica, 3 December 2015 — The Government of Costa Rica reported on Thursday that given the refusal of Guatemala, it is negotiating with Belize to airlift thousands of Cubans who are stranded on Costa Rican soil to that country, to continue their journey to the United States.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez said this Thursday that the option is to send the Cubans to Belize by air, and from there move them overland to Mexico, to continue to the United States.

Gonzalez explained that Mexico is willing to cooperate, but on the condition that migrants come through a third country, in this case Belize.

“We are negotiating with Belize but they cannot give us an answer until Tuesday, when the Governing Council will meet,” the Foreign Minister said in a press conference.

Gonzalez revealed that the other alternative was Guatemala, but the government of that country is not willing to serve as a “bridge,” which took to Costa Rica “by surprise.”

“Every country is sovereign and makes its own decisions. It took us a little bit by surprise. We respect the decision of President (Alejandro) Maldonado and the considerations that led him not to allow passage through Guatemala,” Gonzalez said.

Guatemala argued that there are logistical complexities and that they could not guarantee the security of Cubans in dangerous areas close to their border with Mexico, nor has Mexico given them a written assurance that it will receive the migrants, Gonzalez revealed.

The minister clarified that the reasons given by Guatemala are “very different” from those given by Nicaragua to not allow the passage of Cubans by land from Costa Rica.

There are currently 4,600 Cubans stranded in Costa Rica, all of whom came through the border with Panama and received special transit visas from Costa Rican authorities.

The wave of Cubans began to come to Costa Rica on 14 November and a day later Nicaragua prohibited their entry into its territory.

Nicaragua accused Costa Rica of “creating” and “manipulating” this immigration crisis to support the immigration policies of the United States, which provide benefits to any Cuban who reaches that country.

The Costa Rican Foreign Minister said that the government does not have the economic resources to pay for airfare for the Cubans and that it is looking to international organizations to provide assistance.

The Cubans, who carry passports, must bear the costs of the transfer.

These emigrants left Cuba legally by air for Ecuador, a country that did not require a visa from them, and from there began their travel by land and sea through Colombia and Panama, to reach Costa Rica.

As a measure to solve the crisis, Ecuador decided to require Cubans to have tourist visas starting 1 November.

In Panama there are also over a thousand Cubans stranded, waiting to continue their journey to the United States.

Chancellor Gonzalez said that this issue will be addressed by Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis on an official visit to Cuba, that will take place on 15 and 16 December.