WASHINGTON – Press secretary Josh Earnest said closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay remains a priority for the Obama administration, which is in the "final stages" of drafting its latest plan to close it.
President Barack Obama's efforts to shut the prison have been stymied by opponents in Congress for years.
Earnest said Wednesday it's a waste to spend more than $100 million per year on a prison holding only 116 detainees. And he said terrorists use Guantanamo Bay as a recruiting tool.
Earnest said the president has decided to veto a defense spending bill now being negotiated in Congress if it includes provisions that would make it harder to close the prison.
However, Obama has failed to carry out similar veto threats in the past.
When last month President Obama announced that Cuba was restoring full diplomatic relations, Cuba issued a declaration renewing its demands that the U.S. return Guantanamo to the country.
“To achieve normalization [of diplomatic relations] it will be essential also that the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base is returned,” read a declaration posted on Granma, the official organ of the Communist Party in the island, on July 1st.
In the 700-word declaration, the Cuban government also demanded the U.S. end the transmission of anti-Castro radio and television broadcasts on the island.
The demands echo, almost word by word, those made by President Raul Castro back in January, during the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit on Costa Rica.
The Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, home to Guantanamo Bay detention camp since 2012, is located on 45 square miles of a bay the U.S. leased for use as a coaling and naval station in 1903.
With reporting by the Associated Press.