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Uruguay president agrees to take five Guantanamo prisoners

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica [official website, in Spanish] announced on Thursday that his country has agreed with US President Barack Obama to take five inmates at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder], reportedly stating that they would be "welcome to work and stay with their families in Uruguay." Obama is attempting [BBC report] to live up to his promise to release the remaining prisoners at the camp and to close the facility, but there are still 154 remaining detainees. The five prisoners will be granted refugee status in Uruguay, and though Mujica reportedly agreed to the proposal for humanitarian reasons, he has also acknowledged the possibility of some reciprocal action from the United States, reportedly [Al Jazeera report] stating, "I don't do favors for free." Mujica has some personal connection [WSJ report] to the prisoners' scenario, having been detained [Reuters report] for fourteen years as a guerrilla fighter by the 1973-1985 Uruguayan dictatorship. Obama has been attempting to reach agreements with nations to take more of the remaining Guantanamo detainees, and chose Uruguay because of its strong ties to the US and its position of leadership in South America.

The continuing existence of the Guantanamo bay detention camp has been a source [JURIST op-ed] of frustration for the Obama administration and of political tension within the US, as many have denounced the President for failing to live up to his campaign promises to close the camp. The move to send the detainees to different countries has been difficult at best. The most recent transfer took place on March 13 with the repatriation [JURIST report] of an Algerian detainee who attempted to resist the transfer based on his in absentia conviction of terrorism by Algerian authorities. Other detainees have faced significant difficulties being returned to their countries of choice or origin, even after having had their release ordered [JURIST report] by the federal courts. In January Amnesty International demanded closure of the facility, and just days later Obama announced [JURIST report] that the administration would attempt to close the camp by the end of 2014.

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