January 21, 2016 / 2:06 AM / 2 years ago

Mexico, Central American countries OK plan for stranded Cubans

SAN JOSE (Reuters) - Mexico and Central American countries approved a plan on Wednesday for more flights that would allow thousands of Cubans stranded in Costa Rica to continue on to the United States.

Cuban migrants gesture after traveling en route from Costa Rica to El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, before continuing their journey to the U.S., on the border between the U.S. and Mexico in Reynosa, in Tamaulipas state, Mexico, January 17, 2016. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

Regional governments meeting in Guatemala deemed as a “success” the first pilot trip last week, when 180 Cubans flew to El Salvador, took a bus to Mexico and received transit visas to go to the U.S. border.

“This allows us to pass to the second stage, with two weekly flights following the same route,” said Manuel Gonzalez, Costa Rica’s foreign minister.

The authorities, who did not specify how many people would leave on each flight, plan to give priority to pregnant women, children and families among the 7,800 Cubans trapped in Costa Rica since mid-November when Nicaragua closed its borders.

The flights will begin on Feb. 4, and regional governments will meet again in mid-February to evaluate the plan.

Thousands of Cubans have turned to the Central American route to try to reach the United States, spurred by fears that a recent detente between Havana and Washington will end preferential U.S. asylum rights for Cubans that allow them to enter the United States by land without a visa. Those found at sea are deported.

Reporting by Enrique Pretel; Writing by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Peter Cooney

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