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Uruguay leader confirms Guantanamo deal, chides US on Cuba

AFP , Friday 5 Dec 2014
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Uruguayan President Jose Mujica confirmed Friday that his country would take in six Guantanamo inmates, using the occasion to urge President Barack Obama to lift the US embargo on Cuba.

In an open letter published the day after Uruguayan media reported the prisoners would be transferred by the end of the year, Mujica confirmed the deal -- though without giving a date -- and called on Obama to end the "unjust and unjustifiable embargo on our sister republic of Cuba."

The leftist leader called the move a humanitarian gesture for "human beings who were suffering an atrocious kidnapping at Guantanamo."

Mujica has faced criticism at home since announcing in March that the South American country would take in the inmates in an effort to help Obama fulfill his long-delayed promise to close the prison.

He largely backed off the issue during a recent election campaign to choose his successor.

But he is pressing ahead with the plan now that his Broad Front (FA) party has secured its hold on power for another five years with the victory of his ally, former president Tabare Vazquez, in a run-off election Sunday.

In his "open letter to the Uruguayan people and President Barack Obama," Mujica also urged the United States to free the three still-jailed members of the "Cuban Five," a group convicted on spying charges in 1998, as well as Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera.

Under Mujica's plan, the Guantanamo inmates would be treated like any other residents and be allowed to travel freely.

Mujica, a former guerrilla known for legalizing marijuana, giving most of his salary to charity and living in a run-down farmhouse, has said he sympathizes with the men's plight because of the 13 years he spent as a political prisoner.

There are now 142 inmates remaining at the prison, set up in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The United States has had a "perpetual lease" since 1903 on Guantanamo Bay, in the southeastern corner of Cuba.

It has maintained its economic and financial embargo on the communist island since 1962.

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