Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to Cuba in March, the US government is pushing for shutting down the infamous detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. Closing the detention centre had been one of Mr Obama’s key poll promise during his presidential campaign in 2008. The Gitmo bay, as it is popularly known, gained notoriety in the wake of human rights violations by the US troops on prisoners in the detention centre who were brought there after the 9/11 attacks.
President Obama is hoping to push through the US Congress to shutdown the detention centre. However, due to the polarisation in the Congress, Mr Obama’s proposal has not garnered much support despite his continuous efforts to reach out across the aisle on the issue. The Republican-controlled Congress has so far showed no interest in having any conversation on the issue. The Obama administration seeks to shutdown the detention centre in Guantanamo and has proposed to move it to some other place in US.
Asserting that he does not want to pass on this problem to the next president, Mr Obama said: “If we don’t do what’s required now, I think future generations are going to look back and ask why we failed to act when the right course, the right side of history, and justice and our best American traditions was clear.” Reacting to President Obama’s statement, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said: “We will review President Obama’s plan but since it includes bringing dangerous terrorists to facilities in U.S. communities, he knows that the bipartisan will of Congress has already been expressed against that proposal.”
At a time when US and Cuba have made progress in restoring their diplomatic relations after more than half-a century, shutting down the detention centre would go a long way in improving relations between both the countries.
While the US and Cuba still have significant differences on the issue of lifting the embargo, there has been tangible progress made in the diplomatic ties under the Obama dispensation. After the two countries decided to restore ties, they opened their respective diplomatic missions in Havana and Washington, following it up with restoring air connectivity between the two countries by signing a major agreement.
Cuba’s President Raul Castro, after the ties were resumed in January 2015, said that the US should give back the illegally occupied naval base in Guantanamo to Cuba.
If the Gitmo Bay shuts down during Mr Obama’s Presidency, it will go down as another major accomplishment in his tenure.
(Sridhar Ramaswamy contributed inputs for this article)
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