The newly sworn in Uruguayan government announced on Monday that it would not accept any more inmates from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, in contrast to the previous government, which had resettled six former detainees in December. So far, Uruguay is the only South American nation to have taken in detainees from the U.S. prison.
“No more Guantanamo prisoners are going to come. That's final,” Rodolfo Nin Novoa, Uruguay’s foreign minister, said on Monday, according to media reports. The decision by President Tabare Vazquez’s government, which took power on March 1, could hamper U.S. President Barack Obama’s long-delayed efforts to shutter the detention facility. Currently, 122 inmates remain at Guantanamo, of whom half have been cleared for release.
Under the previous government, Uruguay had given sanctuary to six Arab men -- four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian -- who had spent over a decade in prison without being charged. However, the decision was criticized by opposition parties and was also rejected by most Uruguayan citizens, according to media reports.
Nin Novoa also said that Uruguay would stop taking Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict in their home country, reportedly citing “cultural and infrastructural shortcomings” in dealing with Syrian families. According to BBC, local media have reported several alleged incidents of domestic violence involving Syrian refugees.
Since 2011, when the conflict in Syria began, over 3 million people have fled the country. While most of them have sought refuge in the neighboring nations of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, some have also attempted to enter countries in Europe.
Under Uruguay’s former president Jose Mujica, the government had taken in five families of Syrian refugees and had reportedly promised to take in more. However, Nin Novoa said that these planned resettlements had been postponed until the end of the year.