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Guantanamo Bay Could be the Place for Some Foreign Fighters

According to U.S. and Western military and intelligence officials, many of these foreign fighters remain ideologically motivated, and their training and battlefield experience makes them especially dangerous.

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In the end, U.S. defense officials caution Guantanamo Bay may be the only choice left. “The administration has said very clearly Gitmo is an option here,”
Guantanamo Bay, wikimedia commons

U.S. defense officials appear willing to send more captured terrorists to the country’s detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but see the prison as a last resort, best suited for hard-core fighters who cannot be safely contained at other locations.

The Pentagon Wednesday sent updated guidance to the White House on the rules governing what type of individuals could be sent to Guantanamo Bay, though officials cautioned that no new transfers are in the works.

“Ultimately, the White House will decide how we move forward,” Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters.

“Our policy is that we are trying to encourage countries to take back their citizens,” she added. “We will continue to push that.”

Neither the White House nor the Defense Department have been willing so far to comment on the new guidelines in any detail.

A statement from a Defense Department spokesperson broadly defined those eligible for transfer to Guantanamo Bay as any person posing “a continuing, significant threat to the security of the United States.”

Then-President George W. Bush opened Guantanamo after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to hold and interrogate suspected enemy combatants.
Flag of the United States, wikimedia commons

The fate of the detention facility, once slated for closure, has taken on additional importance as U.S. and coalition operations against the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria begin to wind down.

Currently, U.S.-backed forces in Syria are holding more than 400 IS foreign fighters, while even more are being held in various prisons and other facilities in Iraq. Washington would like to see them returned to their home nations, but many countries are reluctant to accept these fighters.

According to U.S. and Western military and intelligence officials, many of these foreign fighters remain ideologically motivated, and their training and battlefield experience makes them especially dangerous.

“In some cases, those countries have stripped them of their citizenship, so they have a different view as far as to what their status is today,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this week. “So, this is not simple.”

In the end, U.S. defense officials caution Guantanamo Bay may be the only choice left.

“The administration has said very clearly Gitmo is an option here,” Christopher Maier, director of the Defense Department’s Defeat ISIS Core Task Force told VOA. “If they’re not held in some sort of custody, then you’re just asking for more turmoil.”

Even then, not all foreign fighters would be candidates.

Then-President George W. Bush opened Guantanamo after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to hold and interrogate suspected enemy combatants.
The White House to take final call on the issue, wikmedia commons

“I think the intent would be to use Gitmo for certain types of ISIS fighters that were maybe of a more extreme set that couldn’t be dealt with in local facilities or local systems,” Maier said.

The last time Guantanamo Bay received a new detainee was more than 10 years ago, in March 2008. In 2009, then-U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order directing that the detention facility be shut down.

Since then, the number of detainees has fallen from 242 to 40, with the military announcing the most recent transfer, of Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi to Saudi Arabia, late Wednesday.

Darbi’s transfer, the first under President Donald Trump, came as part of a 2014 plea deal that will allow al-Darbi to serve out the rest of his 13-year sentence under Saudi guard.

But unlike his predecessor, Trump pledged to keep the Guantanamo Bay detention facility open, making a key promise of his presidential campaign to “to load it up with some bad dudes.”

He signed an executive order to that effect this past January.

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Then-President George W. Bush opened Guantanamo after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to hold and interrogate suspected enemy combatants.

At the height of its operations, the prison held 780 people, mostly inmates with alleged ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban. Since then, hundreds have been transferred to their home countries or to other nations that agreed to accept them. (VOA)

 

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Cuba Studying Potential Use of Cryptocurrency to Boost its Economy

Cuba's inefficient state-run economy is facing a crisis due to a sharp decline in Venezuelan aid, lower exports

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FILE - Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Etherum and Litecoin virtual currencies, Feb. 13, 2018. Switzerland's government wants to look into the feasibility of launching its own state-backed cryptocurrency. VOA

Cuba’s Communist government said on Tuesday it was studying the potential use of cryptocurrency as part of a series of measures to boost its economy amid a deepening crisis exacerbated by U.S. sanctions.

Cryptocurrency, which allows financial operations to be carried out anonymously, has been used in the past to get around capital controls. Cuba’s top ally Venezuela introduced a cryptocurrency last year aiming to avoid U.S. sanctions and weather hyperinflation, although it never properly got off the ground.

Cuba’s inefficient state-run economy is facing a crisis due to a sharp decline in Venezuelan aid, lower exports and the tightening of the decades-old U.S. trade embargo under President Donald Trump.

The new measures, announced on a roundtable on state-run TV by President Miguel Diaz-Canel and his government, will raise income for around a quarter of the population and deepen market reforms of one of the world’s last Soviet-style command economy’s started by the island nation’s previous president, Raul Castro.

Cuba, Cruptocurrency, Economy
Cuba’s Communist government said on Tuesday it was studying the potential use of cryptocurrency. Pixabay

The aim is to raise national production and demand in order to boost growth as U.S. sanctions target tourism and foreign investment. Diaz-Canel, working to establish his legitimacy after assuming the presidency in April 2018, said the government was working on the details of the implementation.

“We are studying the potential use of cryptocurrency … in our national and international commercial transactions, and we are working on that together with academics,” Economy Minister Alejandro Gil Fernandez said.

The most popular measure in the new package will likely be the hikes in some pensions and wages for workers in public administration, social services and state-run media, bringing the medium monthly wage in those sectors up to the equivalent of $44.5 from around $25 previously.

Many Cubans say the measure still will not be sufficient to breach the gap between salaries and the cost of living.

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Nonetheless it should boost purchasing power, as long as inflation is kept in check.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s an advance,” said Pavel Joaquin Hernandez, 46, a general practitioner who will go from earning the equivalent of around $40 per month to $64.

Cuban economist Omar Everleny said the raise was crucial given how demotivated workers were, with many emigrating.

“For the first time, (the government) is linking the fact that everything can be achieved if workers are motivated,” he said.

Cuba, Cruptocurrency, Economy
Cryptocurrency, which allows financial operations to be carried out anonymously, has been used in the past. Pixabay

Gil Fernandez said the government was also broadening a series of measures aimed at decentralizing and thus improving state-run company performance and stimulating local production, substitution of imports and increasing exports. For example, he said, financial service companies would be established to provide cash in the face of opportunity more quickly than the centralized planning system.

The government would also expand a system allowing some companies to keep a percentage of the hard currency they earn in order to reinvest it immediately rather than have to apply for credit.

State companies, agricultural entities and other economic actors that supply a growing number of firms in the Mariel Special Economic Zone, a project resembling China’s first capitalist oasis, would receive a percentage of sales in hard currency, Gil Fernandez said.

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The government was also studying how to allow the growing number of small private businesses to export through the state-run businesses, he said. (VOA)