Cuban airlifts expected to resume Feb. 4

Many of the Cuban migrants in Costa Rica will be living in public shelters for some time.

The foreign ministry said Wednesday that air flights will begin Feb. 4 to follow the same route as a pilot trip Jan. 12. The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said it anticipated two trips a week to advance the migrants towards their destination, the United States.

Considering that there are perhaps 8,000 Cubans awaiting the airlift in Costa Rica, some 22 weeks will be needed to airlift them all. Seven flight are planned for February, the ministry said.

The Jan. 12 flight with Avianca carried 180 Cubans.

So far the Costa Rican government said it has spent $1 million in housing and helping the Cubans. But the air trip cost each of the 180 passengers $550. That paid for the air flight to El Salvador, bus rides to the Mexican border and visas for El Salvador and Guatemala.

Still undetermined is how Cubans without sufficient money will make the trip. The migrants were expecting to follow a much cheaper land route through Nicaragua, but that country closed its borders to them in mid-November, causing the delay.

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería in Costa Rica is in the process of renewing transit visas for the stranded migrants.

Regional officials worked out the latest plan in a meeting Wednesday in Guatemala.

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