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Mujica: ‘Gitmo an embarrasment to humanity’

US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Uruguay’s President José Mujica in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, yesterday.

In Washington, Uruguayan president confirms willingness to receive six inmates from US prison

WASHINGTON — Uruguayan President José Mujica met with his US counterpart Barack Obama yesterday and said the two leaders discussed human rights and the proposal to bring six Guantánamo inmates to Montevideo.

If the United States is willing “to put an end to that embarrasment, the least we can do is try and help,” Mujica told reports.

The prison in Guantánamo is “an embarrasment to humanity. There are people who have been jailed without a process, without charges and we cannot ignore this kind of thing, even if some people won’t understand,” Mujica said.

The negotiations between the two countries in relation to the Guantánamo prisoners have captivated the media’s attention since Mujica arrived in Washington on Sunday.

The Uruguayan president said Obama told him that he is “committed to closing the prison before leaving the government” and denied that the US had asked Uruguay to control that the former inmates don’t leave Uruguayan territory.

Obama “has the intelligence of not asking what he won’t get,” Mujica said.

The Uruguayan president also said the two leaders didn’t discuss the legalization of marijuana in his country and concentrated instead on regional issues, like the political situation in Venezuela.

He said he had also asked Obama “to improve relations with a fundamental Latin American country that is called Brazil. We need Brazil to be considered in its real proportions,” he added.

Mujica wore a dark suit, no tie and brown shoes to the meeting with Obama at the Oval Office, while the US President wore a blue suit and a tie, according to protocol.

‘US should be bilingual’

Mujica also urged the US to become bilingual, joking that immigrants from Latin America would fill the country with Spanish speakers.

“We belong to a continent where our mother tongue is more or less Spanish. And we live in a time where we need to learn English,” the leftist Mujica told Obama.

“And you will have to become a bilingual country ... because the strength of Latin women is admirable and they will fill this country with people who speak Spanish, and Portuguese, too,” he said.

Obama is pushing for broad immigration reform in the United States that would require undocumented immigrants to learn English, pay fines and eventually earn a pathway to citizenship. The effort is stalled in the US House of Representatives.

Mujica also used his time with the US president to encourage a fight against smoking, which he said is killing eight million people around the world every year.

“That is more than World War I, World War II. It’s murder. We are in an arduous fight — very arduous — and we must fight against very strong interests,” he said.

The US president praised Mujica for his leadership. “I have had the pleasure on several occasions of having discussions with President Mujica, and have been consistently impressed with the progress that Uruguay has been making under his presidency,” Obama told reporters, speaking before his counterpart in the Oval Office.

He said both men were interested in deepening their respective countries’ mutual bonds.

“So this gives us an opportunity to find ways that we can further deepen this relationship. We both think that there’s room for additional work to expand trade and commerce between our countries,” Obama said.

Herald with Télam, Reuters

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