QCOSTARICA – Costa Rica will not be “open bridge” for all Cubans who want to go to the US, says Foreign Minister, Manuel Gonzalez, following the agreement on Monday by the countries of Central America.

Gonzalez explained that the airlift of the almost 8,000 Cubans stranded in Costa Rica, in January to El Salvador, where they can continue by land to Guatemala, Mexico and the United States, is a temporary measure.

Gonzalez added that the logistics of the “pilot plan” to fly out the Cubans were still being worked out, including how many would be in the initial group. “It could be 50, 100, 200 — it depends on the size of the aircraft,” he said, adding priority would be given to “family groups.”

Helping out the Cubans now “does not mean… we have opened the gates to everyone to flow to the United States and we are going to serve as an open bridge for them to travel to the United States”, said Gonzalez in Liberia (Guanacaste) on Tuesday, after a meeting with Kay Granger and Henry Cuellar, members of the U.S. House of Representatives for Texas’ 12th and 28th congressional district, respectively.

<em>Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez gives a press conference at the Liberia international airport in Guanacaste on December 29, 2015</em>
Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez gives a press conference at the Liberia international airport in Guanacaste on December 29, 2015

According to Gonzalez, since the crisis began in November, Costa Rica has been clear that this is a humanitarian issue for people who entered the country legally and stranded following Nicaragua’s closing of its border to the islanders.

The agreement reached Monday among the Central American countries does not include Nicaragua, according to former president Laura Chinchilla’s (2010-2014) post on Facebook, “Nicaragua continues to be the pebble in the shoe, the government of a people with a strong migrant tradition, has no regard for the suffering of children, women and elderly or even touched by a call by the Pope.”

On Monday, the other countries in the region reached an agreement to in January move the first group of Cubans by air to El Salvador.  From there they will make their journey by land in buses through Guatemala and Mexico to the United States.

Gonzalez said he does not have the number of people included or the costs of that first move, but said the laws of each country will have to be respected in terms of money that must be paid in immigration procedures for entry or exit taxes.

“We have to be respectful of the domestic law of each country,” said Gonzalez.

On Monday, the Foreign Ministry said the migrants will have to pay their transportation costs.

A week earlier the government of Luis Guillermo Solis failed to obtain support by the Central American countries with respect to the Cuban migrant crisis, forcing Costa Rica to withdraw from the Central American Integration System (SICA).

On Tuesday, Gonzalez said this (the agreement reached Monday) does not mean the country will return to the SICA policy table.

The Cuban migrants crisis began on November 10 after Costa Rica dismantled a local operation that was part of a human smuggling network, moving Cubans (and other illegals) through the country from the Panama border into Nicaragua.

Stay up to date with the latest stories by signing up to our newsletter, or following us on Facebook.