December 19, 2014
Mujica agrees to take Guantanamo inmates after US request
Uruguay has agreed with the United States to accept some prisoners held in the much-criticized detention center at the US military base of Guantanamo Bay, President Jose Mujica said.
The Obama administration, which wants to close the center used to imprison people captured after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, has been talking to several countries about relocating inmates.
"It's a request for human rights reasons," Mujica told journalists while attending an unrelated farming event.
Mujica said Obama "has asked a bunch of countries if they can take some and I told him yes."
Guantanamo has been criticized by human rights groups, with some of its prisoners held for a decade or longer without being charged or given a trial. Opened by President George W. Bush in 2002 to hold terrorism suspects rounded up overseas, Guantanamo became a symbol of the excesses of his "war on terror."
"They are coming as refugees and there will be a place for them in Uruguay if they want to bring their families," said Mujica, who spent 14 years in prison before and during his country's 1973-1985 dictatorship.
US officials confirmed that talks about Guantanamo had taken place with Uruguay, but would not give more details.
"The US government maintains high level conversations with the Uruguayan government on various global affairs," the US embassy in Montevideo said in a statement.
"One of those has been the closure of Guantanamo, one of the Obama administration's priorities for its humanitarian implications."
A US State Department official said "the United States has engaged the government of Uruguay for help in closing the detention facility as we have engaged a range of governments."
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said many governments, including the Organization of American States and the Latin American community, "have called on the United States to close down the detention facility and we look forward to their continued cooperation."