President-elect Donald Trump has nominated retired Marine General John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security.
Kelly has accepted the offer according to media reports.
Kelly’s qualifications for the job appear to stem from his time as the head of the U.S. Southern Command from 2012 to 2016, which helps take a more humanitarian approach to the countries it works with in the Caribbean and Central and South America.
In an interview earlier this year with the Associated Press, Kelly suggested that the U.S. may jointly operate the US 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 statement was made prior to Kelly’s retirement.
The AP article describes Cuba’s decision to participate in the annual Caribbean regional security conference co-sponsored by the Southern Command.
The prison at Guantanamo has earned notoriety over the years for housing one of the masterminds of the 9-11 attack, among other high value captured terrorists, and for controversial practices that some believe are inhumane and border on torture.
In some cases, the administration has transferred prison detainees to other countries. But there is a small number of detainees who the administration says it would like to detain in a U.S. facility for national security reasons.
Congress has explicitly banned the transfer of detainees to the US.
The controversy over closing the prison at GTMO is separate from the naval base that houses the prison. Until Kelly’s interview with the AP, there has been little or no discussion between Cuba and the U.S. over cancelling the lease for the base.
Guantanamo Bay’s return is among the top of Cuba’s demands it feels are necessary to resolve the remaining issues between the U.S. and Cuba.