Pentagon to spend millions on Guantanamo

Pentagon to spend millions on Guantanamo

Pentagon to spend millions on Guantanamo

A communal cellblock used to house detainees at Guantanamo Bay is seen in this photo. The Pentagon plans to spend $150 million on the facility. REUTERS photo

The Pentagon is considering plans for a $150 million overhaul of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, including building a new dining hall, hospital and barracks for the guards. The step came as the number of detainees on hunger strike at the facility has nearly doubled since last week.

Guantanamo Communications director Robert Durand has said 24 prisoners were now on hunger strike, up from 15 since March 11. But he rejected claims that the majority of detainees were involved in the protest.

Frustration with Obama

U.S. military officials denied any lives were in danger but acknowledged that resistance and frustration among the detainees is growing, a development that a senior general said is because they are “devastated” that President Barack Obama’s pledge to shut down the facility has not been fulfilled.

“They had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed,” Gen. John Kelly said on March 20, the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, when asked about the hunger strikes during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. “They were devastated, apparently… when the president backed off at least their perception, of closing the facility.”

Obama had pledged to shut the prison at Guantanamo, which houses 166 detainees, soon after taking office but Congress opposed it, passing a law that prohibits the government from transferring Guantanamo prisoners to U.S. soil.

Kelly said upgrades to buildings including barracks and the dining hall for the American personnel at the U.S. base in Cuba are badly needed.

He described the living conditions for American personnel at Guantanamo as “pretty questionable.” However, Kelly added that detainees are living in humane conditions.