April 3, 2009 in Nation/World

U.S. shows no interest in Chavez offer

Leader says Venezuela would take detainees
Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaks with photographers in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

DOHA, Qatar – Washington expressed no interest Thursday in an offer by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to take in any of the 240 remaining Guantanamo detainees after they are released from the U.S. military prison.

Chavez said he would have “no problem” accepting any of the remaining detainees in Venezuela. In an interview with Arabic-language Al-Jazeera news network during his trip this week to this Persian Gulf country, Chavez also urged President Barack Obama to free the remaining detainees and return the surrounding U.S. Navy base to Cuba.

But the State Department said in a statement that “the United States has not received a formal offer through diplomatic channels to resettle detainees to Venezuela and is not contemplating resettling detainees to Venezuela.”

Chavez has frequently criticized the U.S. military prison, but the socialist leader also has praised Obama’s pledge to close it within a year. As for the detainees, Chavez said “we would have no problem in receiving a human being.”

Chavez’s remarks were later released by Venezuela’s Information Ministry.

As part of Obama’s closure order, U.S. officials are deciding which of the remaining detainees should be shipped away to foreign countries and which should be tried, either in civilian U.S. courts or in some other setting.

Prisoners transferred to third countries, mainly in Europe, would be those determined to pose no threat but who cannot be sent back to their homelands because of the risk of persecution. Several European nations, including Portugal and Lithuania, have said they will consider taking such detainees.

Venezuela’s relations with the U.S. deteriorated in recent years as the leftist Chavez crusaded against what he calls the U.S. “empire.”

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