US President Barack Obama has said that he should have closed the Guantanamo Bay prison on his first day at the White House back in 2009 when there was consensus with Republicans on its shutting down, Efe news agency reported.
Asked at an event in Cleveland, Ohio, what he would do if he could go back to his first day in the White House, Obama replied, “I would’ve closed Guantanamo on the first day.”
“I didn’t because at that time we had a bi-partisan agreement that it should be closed. I thought that we had a consensus there that we could do it in a deliberate fashion,” the president said.
“The politics got tough, and people got scared by the rhetoric around it… The path of least resistance was to leave it open, even though it’s not who we are as a country,” he added.
Closing Guantanamo Bay prison was one of Obama’s key election promises during his 2008 campaign.
Fifty four of the 122 prisoners that remain at the prison have been approved for transfer to other countries.
In January, the US transferred 20 prisoners: four to Oman, one to Estonia, six to Uruguay, four to Afghanistan and five to Kazakhstan.
With only two years remaining in his presidency, Obama’s administration is working round-the-clock to close the detention centre amidst fierce opposition from the Republicans who gained absolute control of Congress after the November legislative election.
After the Paris terror attacks early this year, the Republican opposition introduced a bill in the Senate to restrict Obama’s ability to transfer prisoners from Guantanamo.
The Guantanamo centre was set up by the George W. Bush administration after the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York to hold alleged terror suspects.
Since then, it has housed around 800 prisoners, most of whom have not been charged.