Uruguayan President José Mujica confirmed on Monday in an interview with radio news service El Espectador that Uruguay would offer asylum to four Syrians and one Palestinian who are currently inmates at the Guantánamo Bay detention center.  Mujica said that the deal would not include an earlier request for the United States to free the last three Cuban prisoners of the five who were convicted of espionage in 2001. “I didn’t put a condition on anything,” he said before adding, “But at some point, we can say to the North American government, from a moral standpoint, ‘Please, try to improve relations with Cuba’.”

The Miami Herald reported last week that the release of the five inmates to Uruguay was part of a larger effort by President Barack Obama to find countries willing to accept Guantánamo detainees.  Since Obama took office, 43 inmates have been relocated to 17 other countries, while 38 were released to their home countries.  Mujica had earlier called his decision one motivated by “human-rights reasons”, adding that the former inmates would be “free men” in Uruguay.  “They're coming as refugees.  Uruguay is giving them a place if they want to bring their family and everything else,” he said.  He later added that “we would never accept being anyone’s jailers, nor do we accept the judicial legitimacy of Guantánamo.”

Mujica also said on Monday that he would likely not accept an invitation extended by the White House for May 12, pointing to elections set for June 1st.  “We’re in an electoral season.  Everything gets used and I don’t think it will be convenient,” he said before adding that a final decision on whether or not to attend would be made after the transfer of the Guantánamo detainees was carried out.