President José Mujica said in an interview Monday that any Guantánamo detainees his country takes will be treated as refugees and will be free to travel wherever they wish, even if they have promised the United States that they’ll stay in the South American country for at least two years.
Mujica told El Espectador radio that Uruguay has tentatively agreed to take four Syrians and a Palestinian who have been held at the military detention center in the U.S.-held corner of Cuba.
Mujica denied that the five are dangerous and said that “in no way” would Uruguay prevent them from traveling.
He also says he probably won’t attend a May 12 meeting in Washington with President Barack Obama, citing political campaigns in Uruguay.
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Under U.S. Congressional restrictions on release of a Guantánamo detainee, the Obama administration has to undertake risk-mitigation on the possibility that the ex-captive could in the future harm the United States or its interests.
For past transfers, according to people who’ve been involved in the deals, the United States asked resettlement countries to restrict the travel of former Guantánamo detainees for a period of time.
In the last Western Hemisphere resettlement case, two Guantánamo captives were sent to in El Salvador for resettlement in April 2012 and left about 17 months later.
The U.S. military holds four Syrians and a Palestinian in the prison camps, all of them approved for transfer to another nation in 2010 with security arrangements. The United States currently has 154 captives in the camps, 76 of them approved for resettlement or repatriation.
The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg contributed to this Associated Press report from Miami.