First of Cubans Who Were Stranded in Costa Rica Arrive in US / 14ymedio

Randy Cuevas, the first Cuban who entered the United States after being stranded two months in Costa Rica. (Libertad Cuban / screenshot)
Randy Cuevas, the first Cuban who entered the United States after being stranded two months in Costa Rica. (Libertad Cuban / screenshot)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio (with information from agencies), Havana, 15 January 2016 – The first group of Cuban migrants coming from Costa Rica, of the almost 8,000 stranded in that Central American Country since November, are now in the United States.

On Thursday, 12 Cubans arrived in the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo and, hours later, at night, crossed the international bridge that leads to Laredo, on the other side of the border in Texas, putting an end to their long journey by land that began in Ecuador.

“We are content because we reached our objective,” said Randy Cuevas, the first to cross the frontier, in a video loaded to the Facebook page of the civic organization Cubans in Freedom, which is helping the Cubans who are arriving in Texas. “It was a hard war, since October we have been going through this, but hey, I made it, thanks to God and everyone,” said Cuevas.

The same organization showed several recordings of the testimony of Cubans exultant on reaching US soil. “It is the greatest happiness,” confessed Liliande Gonzalez.

Another of the first to cross on Thursday night, Daniel Caballero, said, “I am a Cuban who has just achieved the American dream.”

On Friday morning another 47 arrived, part of the group of 180 that formed the first contingent sent by plane from Costa Rica to El Salvador and from there by land to Mexico crossing Guatemala, according to Alejandro Ruiz, founder of Cubans in Freedom. “Especially for those who have no family, we offer them a refugee program in Texas,” said Ruiz in an interview with Univision.

“We manage all the documentation, Medicare, the check they get from the government, a Social Security number [that identifies all individuals in the United States], and we do it all absolutely free,” he said.

“I’m happy, I feel brand new,” Julio Cesar Arcia Medina told AFP. Arcia Medina is a 37-year-old leatherworker who arrived on Friday by bus at the international bridge of Nuevo Laredo, which daily records an intense activity and great numbers of vehicles, being the main commercial crossing to the United States.

The Associated Press picked up the testimony of Alexei Oliva at the airport in Mexico City, about to board the plane that would take him straight to Matamoros, also on the border with Texas. “I am anxious to arrive,” he said. “It’s exciting.”

Oliva left Cuba by plane on 27 October 2015 bound for Ecuador, where he got “a little computer work” that helped to pay for the trip. “I’ve had the best treatment in the world here in Mexico,” commented Oliva passing through the capital, a treatment very different from many migrants crossing the country, who are extorted, robbed, kidnapped and sometimes disappeared by the organized criminal gangs that generally operate with the complicity of some authorities.

If successful, this pilot program could be extended to the islanders who remain stranded in Costa Rican territory because, as of 15 November, the neighboring country, Nicaragua,has refused to allow them to pass. Those who want to be part of this solution, will have to pay the $555 it costs to travel to Mexico.

The countries involved in the transit of Cubans will meet next week to decide the next steps for the transfer of those who remain, said Katia Rodriguez, Costa Rica’s Director of Immigration.

Rodriguez estimated that another 28 flights may be needed to remove the almost 8,000 Cubans in Costa Rican shelters. In addition, about 2,000 are in Panama.

The official also explained that to date Cubans who entered the country illegally after 18 December have been deported and there are 40 applications for refugee status. At least 600 migrants tried to cross into Nicaragua on their own and were returned to Costa Rica in the past two months, since the Nicaraguan authorities decided to close its borders.

The flow of Cubans to the United States has soared since Washington and Havana announced the restoration of diplomatic relations in December 2014, for fear that migration and employment benefits enjoyed by Cubans when entering the United States via land will be eliminated.