From two Progreso Weekly articles published March 20 and 21
HAVANA TIMES — President José Mujica of Uruguay confirmed Thursday (March 20) that Uruguay will shelter as “refugees” at least five detainees currently at the prison camp of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mujica said he was responding to a request from President Obama.
The Uruguayan weekly Búsqueda said that US Secretary of State John Kerry personally phoned Mujica to thank him on Monday.
Mujica revealed on Friday (March 21) that, in exchange for granting shelter to detainees from the US Navy base, he asked the Obama administration to release three Cuban intelligence agents who have been in US prisons since their arrest in 1998 and conviction in 2001.
Mujica said that he based his decision to accept the Gitmo prisoners on his respect for human rights and told the local press that “they’ll come as refuges and Uruguay will give them a place [to live]. If they want to bring their families, that’ll be all right, as simple as that.”
“If they want to make their nest here and work here, they may stay in the country,” he added. The agreement is for the detainees to remain in Uruguay for at least two years, a government source told Agence France-Presse.
The Cubans whose release is being sought by Mujica are Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, and Ramón Labañino. Hernández is serving two life terms plus 15 years; Guerrero, 21 years 10 months, and Labañino, 30 years.
Along with Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez (no relation) the three agents are known internationally as the Cuban Five. René and Fernando served out their terms and were released in October 2011 and February 2014 respectively. Both are now living in Cuba.
“We said that we would ask for something,” [in return for excepting the Gitmo prisoners] Mujica said on his radio program “The President Speaks.” “We don’t do this for money or material things, but we have no compunction in saying that we asked the United States government to please do everything possible to find the way to release those two or three Cuban prisoners who have been there for many years, because that, too, is a shame.”
Mujica said the negotiations between Uruguay and the US “are far from being closed,” adding “they depend, among other things, of various decisions out of our reach.”
According to the ANSA news agency, the first group of released detainees from Gitmo would consist of five Syrians and one Pakistani, who would be accepted by Uruguay as ordinary — not political — refugees.
The president said that “18 countries have already offered similar cooperation to help finish this shameful situation and 89 prisoners have already left or are leaving Guantánamo.”
“There are 120 guys who have been imprisoned for 13 years,” he said, while touring a farm fair in the city of Soriano, Uruguay. “They never saw a judge, they never saw a prosecutor, and the president of the United States wants to take that problem off his shoulders. The Senate is demanding certain things from him, so he asked a lot of countries if they could give refuge to some and I told him yes.”