Cuban travel plans become a controversial issue for government

The transport of Cuban migrants picked up speed Tuesday after a newspaper report suggested that the scheme blocked other and cheaper alternatives.

President Luis Guillermo Solís, Manuel González, the foreign minster, and the local office of the International Organization for Migration all rejected the allegations of a travel agency operator that were featured in the El Diario Extra news article.

But González also threatened to pull the visas from Cubans who do not make an air trip north when they are supposed to do so.

The government reported that 98 Cubans declined to complete the exit process with Costa Rican immigration officials Tuesday because they thought there might be more economical options.

Solís said that this attitude put in jeopardy the entire plan to transport some 4,000 Cubans to the U.S. border.

And then the government revealed that 236 Cubans were supposed to leave Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia on two flights today to Laredo, México, which is right on the U.S. border.

The Cubans will not land in El Salvador, and they will not have to pay for a Salvadoran visa and one for Guatemala. And they will not have to pay for bus transport through México.

Both González and Solís said that Costa Rica is not receiving any money from the airlift.

José Montoya of  Viajes Meridianos told La Extra that he tried repeatedly to contact government officials to offer economical travel services to help the Cubans move north after Nicaragua closed its border in mid-November. He said his firm did not participate in what was called a market study by the immigration organization in late January because it lacked a license from the International Air Transport Association, something the immigration agency required.

He said other firms did not participate either because of the license requirement, which he said is not needed to operate a travel agency.


The International Organization of Migration agreed in its press release Tuesday that only Vacaciones Diseñadas Terranova S.A. and one other company participated in the selection of the travel firm. The contract to Viajes Ejecutivos Mundiales S.A. was a direct award without bidding.

The air lift was a project set up by the Central American governments with the help of the immigration organization.

The organization also defended the plan as one that guarantees the protection of the human rights of the migrants.

The Cubans will be allowed to enter the United States and seek residency under a 1966 Cold War era law as long as they arrive by land.

President Luis Guillermo Solís and Manuel González.

President Luis Guillermo Solís and Manuel González.

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