A group of 180 Cubans have left Costa Rica, flying to El Salvador as part of a program designed to help migrants on their way to the United States.
The group was stuck in Costa Rica for more than a month after Nicaragua closed its borders, saying Costa Rica had created a "humanitarian crisis" by issuing transit visas to more than 1,000 Cubans. Once they arrive in El Salvador, they are expected to board buses bound for the United States.
Costa Rica's foreign minister Manuel Gonzales said Tuesday that the operation to help the migrants move along "has been successful so far" and added that the goal is to have two flights per day out of Costa Rica once the program is up and running.
The migrants must pay about $500 per person to cover the costs of the trip, including plane and bus fare.
Ministers from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, and Honduras are set to meet next week and evaluate the first trip. About 8,000 migrants are reported to be awaiting passage from Costa Rica to the United States.
U.S. policy allows Cuban migrants who arrive by land to enter the country and apply for residency. Those intercepted at sea are sent back to Cuba. Many Cubans fear that the thaw in relations between Cuba and the U.S. may eventually lead to an end to that preferential treatment. The numbers of Cubans trying to make their way to the United States has risen substantially since the announcement in December of 2014 that the two countries were restoring diplomatic relations.