In their first real day of freedom since arriving in Uruguay, the former Guantanamo prisoners hit the streets of the capital of Montevideo to buy cellphones, clothes and Korans.
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – The Uruguayan government is issuing passports to five of the six former Guantanamo prisoners now living in Uruguay, a weekly publication, Busqueda, reported Thursday.
They will be able to leave the country as they please.
According to Busqueda, the ex-prisoners have turned down multiple jobs offered to them, which is breeding discontent among Uruguayan authorities and organizations that backed their asylum request. Political officials in Uruguay, including President Jose Mujica, who at first openly welcomed the former Gitmo detainees, now say they need to get a job to financially sustain themselves.
The six men arrived in Montevideo two months ago, after more than a dozen years held at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba without charges, as suspected militants with ties to al-Qaeda.
Uruguay welcomed them for resettlement as a humanitarian gesture, but relations seem to be turning increasingly testy.
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Last week, one of the former prisoners, Syrian refugee Abu Wa'el Dhiab, raised a stir by complaining in a TV interview that the men "walked out of a prison to enter another one." He also made a brief trip to neighboring Argentina saying he planned to ask that it give asylum to Guantanamo prisoners.
In the interview, Dhiab expressed thanks to Uruguayans for taking the men in, but said there should be a plan for helping the ex-detainees, who need "their families, a home, a job and some sort of income that allows them to build a future."
Mujica, who spearheaded the plan to bring the men to this South American nation, shot back by questioning the men's willingness to work.
Busqueda also is reporting that in the coming days the government will receive a "substantial amount" of money from an international body, meant to help the former detainees reintegrate to society.
Dhiab’s lawyer, American Cori Crider, told Montevideo Portal that clearly there is an adaptation problem.
"The basic issue is that after 13 years in Guantanamo all of us would suffer," she said. “I don’t think it's surprising that an adaptation process is needed after passing from one of the most notorious prisons in the world to live in society, here or anywhere."
The AP contributed to this report.