Our restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba and the accompanying swap of prisoners have overshadowed the release of six terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay, after the government of Uruguay agreed to accept the six. On the face of things, the two stories seem unrelated. But if we are to believe the president of Uruguay, there is a connection. And the common thread may be President Obama’s laxity (to put it gently) — in one case towards Islamist terrorists; in the other towards Cuban Communists.
Here is what we know:
On December 17, President Obama announced that the U.S. would restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba. In addition, Cuba and the U.S. swapped prisoners. The United States sent back to Cuba three imprisoned spies who were captured in 1998. Cuba released Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a Cuban who had worked as an agent for American intelligence and had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years.
Finally, Cuba also released Alan Gross, an American whom the Castros arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison. The release of Gross was said to be a “humanitarian” act separate from the rest of the deal, but it is difficult to take this claim seriously.
Eleven days earlier, on December 6 six terrorists whom the U.S. had detained at Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade were flown to Uruguay for resettlement. This represented the largest group to be released collectively from Gitmo since 2009.
The deal was the product of negotiations between the U.S. and Uruguay’s outgoing president, Jose Mujica. President Mujica insisted that the six terrorists be free to leave Uruguay on day one, if that’s what they wanted. Normally, for what it’s worth, the host country agrees that freed Gitmo terrorists can’t leave for two years. But Mujica says this arrangement doesn’t apply here, and the U.S. government has not denied it.
This much is known.
Why do I believe there may be a connection between the detainee release to Uruguay and the release of the three Cuban spies? Because Mujica has publicly claimed, and indeed bragged, that at the request of the Castros he offered to receive the six Gitmo detainees if Obama agreed to release the three Cuban spies held in US jails.
Word of Mujica’s claim first came to me from a distinguished reader who learned about it from a friend who formerly held an important position in Uruguay’s government. This article confirms that Mujica is, in fact, bragging that he played a role in securing the release of the three Cuban spies.
The article quotes Mujica as follows:
This is a human rights issue. … I don’t do favors for free, I pass on the bill.
In other words, in exchange for doing Obama the favor of taking six Gitmo detainees (a move reportedly opposed by a majority of Uruguayans), Mujica insisted that U.S. release the Cuban spies. That was his “bill.” And, according to my source, Mujica has said he presented it at the request of the Castros (the article cited above says that Mujica consulted with Raul Castro on matter).
In Mujica’s telling, he was able to pry the Cuban spies loose because Obama desperately wanted Uruguay to take the Gitmo detainees. But it’s not clear how much “prying” was required.
Obama, I believe, wanted to accomplish two important leftist objectives: release terrorists from Gitmo and accommodate the Castros. His deal with Uruguay, as Mujica depicts it, furthers both purposes.
Although no one seems to dispute that Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla, urged that the Cuban spies be released, the U.S. denies that their release was ever part of the negotiations, which have been going on for many months. It would appear, then, that either Mujica or the Obama administration is lying.
However, the truth may be that Mujica asked for the release of the Cuban spies and the administration signaled that this would be taken care of as part of a larger deal with Cuba. In this scenario, the Obama administration could deny that the release of spies ever became part of the give-and-take of negotiations. Again, it seems likely that releasing the Cuban spies is something Obama wanted to do anyway, for purposes of accommodating the Castro regime.
If Obama’s recent transactions with Uruguay and Cuba are viewed collectively, here is the “bill” to the U.S.: (1) the release of six terrorists with no assurance (not even a paper one) that they won’t immediately return to the fight against the U.S., as so many have; (2) the release of three Cuban spies; and (3) the granting to Cuba’s Communist tyrants of as much legitimacy and economic help as Obama has the power to confer.
In exchange, we get the release from the Castros’ hell hole of one Cuban and one American.
That’s the kind of horse-trade you get when an American president’s interests largely align with those of a leftist South American president and a Communist Cuban regime.
NOTE: I initially linked to the wrong article from Mundo. The link has been corrected.