It appears the new White House Chief of Staff may have some ideas about Cuba that contradict President Trump’s policy towards the island nation.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s choice for White House chief of staff, retired Marine General John Kelly, was one of the military’s longest-serving commanders before Trump named him secretary for the Department of Homeland Security.
Kelly, 67, is known for his blunt-spoken style and is popular with military personnel. Trump described him in a tweet Friday as “a Great American and a Great Leader.” Kelly replaced Reince Priebus on July 31.
He described the job Kelly has done as Homeland Security secretary as “spectacular” and said “he has been a true star of my administration.”
In a 2016 interview with the Associated Press, when Kelly was the commander of Southern Command, the general suggested that the U.S. may jointly operate the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo, Cuba – also know as GTMO – with Cuba.
Kelly said he believes the facility remains strategically valuable, a deepwater port in the Caribbean, and he would like to see it remain open even if the detention center closes. He suggested it could be run jointly with the Cubans, offering employment to the local population as it once did. But the general says he hasn’t discussed it with anyone in the Castro government. “It wouldn’t be appropriate,” he said. – AP
The article describes Cuba’s decision to participate in the annual Caribbean regional security conference co-sponsored by the US military’s Southern Command.
Kelly was born and raised in Boston and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1970. He left two years later to go to college but returned in 1976 after graduating from the University of Massachusetts.
Kelly rose through the ranks to serve as the commanding general of the Multi-National Force West in Iraq from February 2008 to February 2009, and as the commander of Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North in October 2009.
He capped his military career as head of the U.S. Southern Command, an assignment that exposed him to border-security issues, immigration and drug trafficking.
His area of responsibility in that post encompassed 32 countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America. It also included the military jail at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and led to a clash with the Obama administration over plans to close Guantanamo.
Kelly also sparred with the previous administration’s order to open all jobs in combat units to women, including the most elite forces like the Navy SEALs.
Kelly is close to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, also a retired Marine general, and is generally well-liked and respected by both Democrats and Republicans in politically divided Washington.