GUATEMALA CITY: Central American countries on Monday agreed a breakthrough in the case of thousands of US-bound Cuban migrants stranded in Costa Rica, after weeks of often acrimonious regional diplomacy.
In a meeting in Guatemala City, representatives from several of the countries said they would fly some of the Cubans to El Salvador, where they would be put on buses to cross Guatemala and enter Mexico.
Separate statements by the Guatemalan and Costa Rican governments said the exercise would be a “pilot plan” to be carried out in “the first week of January.”
They did not say how many of the up to 8,000 Cubans currently stuck in Costa Rica would be flown out, stressing that talks on the logistics still needed to be held.
A Costa Rican foreign ministry official said the migrants would be paying for the transport themselves.
The announcement suggested a bitter row among Central American nations over the Cubans could be on its way to being resolved.
The issue blew up into what several of the nations termed a “humanitarian crisis” when Nicaragua in mid-November closed its border to the Cubans, who had been given Costa Rican transit visas.
Costa Rica’s efforts to have countries north of Nicaragua admit the Cubans had been in vain up to Monday.
San Jose’s mounting frustration with its neighbors exploded of December 18 when it suspended its political participation in the Central American Integration System (SICA), a regional body meant to promote cooperation between member states.
It also said it would accept no more Cubans itself and threatened any more arrivals with deportation back to their home country.
Pope Francis on Sunday pleaded with Central American nations to end the Cubans’ “humanitarian drama.” A week earlier, he had called on Costa Rica and Nicaragua to improve ties frayed by years of border disputes.
Monday’s meeting in Guatemala City brought together foreign ministry officials from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico, as well as representatives from the International Organization for Migration —but not Nicaragua.
Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez hailed its “positive results” and thanked the other countries for their “goodwill.”