Six men held for more than a decade at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were flown to Uruguay for resettlement on Sunday, the latest step in a slow-moving push by President Barack Obama's administration to close the facility. The release of four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian, who arrived in South America aboard a U.S. military transport plane, represented the largest single group to leave the internationally condemned U.S. detention camp since 2009, U.S. officials said.
A half-dozen men considered prisoners in the U.S. war on terror until yesterday now have a new designation -- refugees -- and a new temporary home: Uruguay. A U.S. medical aircraft carrying the six former Guantanamo Bay detainees landed at a military base in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, in the middle of the night, CNN affiliate Canal 10 Uruguay reported on Sunday. Within a few hours, a caravan of 15 to 20 vehicles, including ambulances, drove the newly freed men to hospitals.
The president of Uruguay wants more countries to legalize weed. Speaking to Reuters on Thursday, President José Mujica called on the United States and Europe to follow his government's lead by legalizing marijuana. "The industrial societies are the ones that have to change," Mujica told Reuters. "For a small country, it's possible to experiment with this, but it's also very possible for a developed country because of the resources it has … Until things change there, it will be very difficult to change elsewhere."
Late Tuesday night, a small Latin American country voted to become the first in the world to legalize the sale and distribution of marijuana. Just as twin referendums in Colorado and Washington last year signaled the beginning of a state-based movement to legalize weed in the U.S., drug reform activists hope Uruguay's decision will spur other countries to do the same.
The passage of a landmark marijuana legalization measure Tuesday means Uruguay is set to become the first country in the world to have a system regulating legal production, sale and consumption of the drug. It's practically a done deal. President Jose Mujica has to sign the bill before it becomes a law. But he's long backed the measure, and there's little doubt that he remains behind it.
Pot connoisseurs of the world take note: Uruguay is about to go where no country has gone before by legalizing the cultivation and distribution of marijuana, with the left-of-center government regulating all facets of the trade. The initiative runs sharply counter to the Obama administration’s anti-drug policies, which criminalize the use of marijuana, heroin and cocaine and rely on tough interdiction tactics to stop the flow of drugs from Latin America.