Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tearing Down Fences in Cuba ...and Beyond

President Obama took an early first step on his promise to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. On his first day in office he directed the military courts to halt prosecutions of all detainees held unlawfully by the Bush Administration, until a proper and legal prosecution can be mounted, where supported by the evidence.

President Obama is expected to issue an executive order on Jan. 22nd to close the detention camp. Some of the 240 detainees have been held for seven years without having charges filed against them. Some were detained as adolescents. Only 3 detainees have been convicted of crimes since 2001.

The White House draft of the executive order says closing the facility “would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice, stating that the detention facilities at Guantánamo for shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order.” (Source: AP)

Unlike Mr. Bush, President Obama has a background in constitutional law. From this perspective, President Obama deems the Bush Administration’s special military prosecutions lacking in basic protections of the American legal and traditional military justice systems. Under existing laws, much of the evidence gathered from detainees is inadmissible due to the Bush administration's practice of torture during interrogations, in violation of Geneva Conventions.
Fidel Castro stated that Barack Obama "seems like a man who is absolutely sincere", according to Argentina President Cristina Fernandez who met with him today in Havana. She added, "Fidel believes in Obama".

President Obama’s actions this week begin to restore the USA’s reputation in Cuba, Latin America, and the world. In his inaugural address, he stated "we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals".
Sections of Mr. Bush’s fence along the USA/Mexico border may be the next to fall under President Obama’s ax. Construction was delayed last year in areas with sensitive habitat, and where land owners filed court appeals. Many miles of new fencing already divide communities that existed long before current political lines were drawn, and the border fence has been compared to the Berlin Wall by once-integrated binational border communities.
The Bush administration ordered (but did not build) fencing over wetland habitat in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, "a proposed National Heritage Area", according to Los Caminos del Rio Executive Director Eric Ellman. If the river valley is fenced as proposed by Mr. Bush, Texas will effectively cede a national treasure to Mexico.

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