Entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis Partners With Betty Lou's Inc., an Oregon-Based Specialty Food Manufacturer, Co-Packer, and Private Labeler

LINCOLNSHIRE, IL—(Marketwired – Dec 31, 2014) – Marcus Lemonis, Chicago–based entrepreneur and host of CNBC's The Profit, announces a partnership with health snack manufacturer, Betty Lou's Inc., based in McMinnville, Oregon. Betty Lou's, which has been owned by self–starter Betty Lou Carrier since 1978, manufactures, supplies and co–packs food ingredients, health bars and crackers, and also specializes in accommodating common food allergies, sensitivities and dietary preferences by offering products that are gluten free and free of refined sugars, hydrogenated oils and genetically modified foods. These snack products are widely available at major grocery supermarkets and health food stores as well as online at www.bettylousinc.com, where shoppers can browse product by diet type.

“After doing business with Betty Lou Carrier, I saw that she possessed the 3 essential P's of business success; People, Process and Product. I am excited to partner with Betty Lou's on her food manufacturing dream that started more than 30 years ago through baking healthy snacks for her own children,” said Lemonis. “She is a world–class visionary that has made many strides in her community and the co–packing industry and I look forward to working with her and her company to reach monumental heights by broadening our reach of Betty Lou branded packaged goods and co–packed products. My number one goal is to build on this amazing company by growing the Betty Lou's branded products and continuing to be the leader in co–packing for other great brands nationwide.”

“We've had tremendous growth over the past 30 years, and I attribute that to our people, our product quality and consistent focus on providing only the best finished goods,” commented Betty Lou Carrier. “This partnership gives us access to the additional resources needed to take the company's development to the next level, and we will now be better equipped to give our customers a faster turn–around through receiving assistance with elements such as regulation, marketing, package designs and most importantly sales. Today is a great day at Betty Lou's.”

For more information regarding Betty Lou's Inc. visit www.bettylousinc.com, and to learn more about Marcus Lemonis visit www.marcuslemonis.com.

About Betty Lou's Inc.

Betty Lou's Inc. located in beautiful McMinnville, Oregon has been in the Natural, Organic snack business for over 30 years. Founded by Betty Lou Carrier in 1978, Betty Lou's has grown from a home kitchen based operation to two facilities. A 35,000 sq. ft. dedicated gluten free facility and a100,000 sq. ft. certified gluten free, state of the art facility with 240+ employees. Their company motto is, “It's a great day at Betty Lou's” and it truly is! In addition to manufacturing their own lines of all natural and gluten free, great tasting products, they also manufacture nutrition bars for a wide array of companies in the health food industry. Please visit www.bettylousinc.com

About Marcus Lemonis

Marcus Lemonis is an entrepreneur, investor, television personality, and chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises. Camping World is the nation's largest RV and outdoor retailer, and Good Sam is the world's largest RV owner's organization.

Lemonis is also known as the “business turnaround king” and host of CNBC's prime time reality series, The Profit, in which he lends his expertise to struggling small businesses around the country and judges businesses based on a “Three P” principle: People, Process, and Product. The Profit airs on CNBC Tuesdays at 10PM ET/PT.

More about Marcus Lemonis can be found at http://www.marcuslemonis.com, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/marcus.lemonis and Twitter @MarcusLemonis

Children Stolen by Chilean Dictatorship Finally Come to Light

Ana María Luna Barrios searches murals of photos of people “disappeared” after the 1973 coup d’etat that ushered in the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, looking for a face that might be her mother, from whom she was apparently taken after being born in captivity. Credit: Marjorie Apel/Creative Commons

Ana María Luna Barrios searches murals of photos of people “disappeared” after the 1973 coup d’etat that ushered in the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, looking for a face that might be her mother, from whom she was apparently taken after being born in captivity. Credit: Marjorie Apel/Creative Commons

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Dec 31 2014 (IPS)

The suspicion that babies of people detained and disappeared during Chile’s 1973-1990 dictatorship were stolen is growing stronger in Chile, a country that up to now has not paid much attention to the phenomenon.

“There has always been a suspicion that something similar to what happened in Argentina also occurred in Chile, and that many women who were pregnant when they were detained actually gave birth in detention centres,” a 70-year-old woman who asked to be identified simply as Carmen told IPS.

“No one dug into that issue much back then, because we were afraid, and nobody would have listened to us,” she added.

During the Sep. 11, 1973 coup, Carmen, a high school teacher who actively supported the left-wing Popular Unity government of socialist President Salvador Allende (1970-1973), was in a small town in southern Chile doing political work with a group of other young activists.

A few hours after Allende was overthrown by the coup led by General Augusto Pinochet, Carmen saw one of her fellow activists killed right next to her as they were protesting against army troops advancing on the small town. “You never get over that pain,” she said.

Despite the violence and insecurity, she made it back to Santiago and from there managed to flee into exile.“In this country things have moved forward slowly, very slowly at times, but with the certainty that there will be no backsliding. And this issue is not going to disappear, in case someone was hoping for that.” — Lorena Fríes

“I wasn’t detained or tortured, but many of my fellow activists were. A number of them gave birth to children, and no one knows if they are alive, while others fell pregnant as a result of being raped during torture,” she said.

According to the official investigation, 40,000 people were tortured during the 17-year military dictatorship, and 3,095 of them were killed, 1,000 of whom are still disappeared.

It has been confirmed that at least 10 women were pregnant when they were detained and disappeared. They were between the ages of 26 and 29, and were three to eight months pregnant.

In August, the moving images of Argentine activist Estela de Carlotto with Guido, her grandson, who was finally tracked down, made headlines around the world.

The discovery of the grandson of the president of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, who was stolen during Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship, moved many people in Chile, who see progress being made across the border in healing the wounds left by human rights violations in a particularly sensitive area – the question of babies born to political prisoners and stolen.

Lorena Fríes, director of the National Institute of Human Rights, said there are well-founded suspicions that some children of political prisoners were taken by agents of the dictatorship, “but not in the same magnitude as in Argentina, where it formed part of the repressive policies.”

“I do not have the conviction that it was widespread, although there may have been cases,” she told IPS.

Human rights lawyer Alberto Espinoza has not yet handled any cases involving the theft of babies born in captivity.

“I know about pregnant women who were tortured and as a result may have lost their pregnancies, but I don’t have any information about those babies surviving,” he said.

But, Espinoza added, “I don’t rule out the possibility that it happened. Such extraordinarily inhumane and exceptionally shocking things happened during the military dictatorship that it can’t be ruled out that maybe some children survived and no one knows what happened to them.”

But for the first time, the suspicion that children were stolen by the dictatorship has been acknowledged to be well-substantiated.

That is especially true after the programme Informe Especial (Special Report) broadcast by the public station Televisión Nacional de Chile, with previously unheard accounts from women who were raped as part of the torture they suffered during the dictatorship, and who were told that their babies had died, in murky circumstances.

The report titled “the invisible children of the dictatorship” ended with an unprecedented appeal: “If you know or suspect that you were adopted and are between the ages of 35 and 40, contact the Interior Ministry’s Human Rights Programme.”

The information provided in the Special Report programme and the appeal put the spotlight on the official suspicion that children were stolen, but also on the children who were born as a result of the sexual violence that female political prisoners suffered in clandestine detention centres.

The programme, which aired Dec. 15, triggered a flurry of reactions on the social networks.

And the next day, Justice Minister José Antonio Gómez met with a group of former female political prisoners who were victims of sexual violence and promised to move ahead on a draft law that classifies torture and related sexual violence as specific crimes.

“It is certain that many people, principally women, have not given all of their testimony with respect to the politically-related sexual violence or sexual torture to which they were subjected during the dictatorship,” Fríes said.

“It has also been shown that it takes women a much longer time to report these kinds of situations. That means there is a pending issue here,” she said.

On the other hand, she added, “many years have gone by, and time is the main enemy of the possibility of seeing justice done.”

There is at least one concrete case of a baby girl who was born to a political prisoner. The name of the torture victim’s daughter, who is now an adult, was kept anonymous. Another young woman, Isabel Plaza, is the daughter of Rosa Lizana, who was kidnapped on the street when she was seven months pregnant, in 1975, and was held for a month before she was sent into exile.

Another special case is that of Ana María Luna Barrios, who since finding out she was adopted has been searching for her mother among the faces of the disappeared. She was abandoned in 1976 in the Military Hospital, where a nurse took her home and later adopted her.

She has taken her case to court, without results. But new investigations have found that a DINA – the dictatorship’s secret police – lieutenant Hernán Valle Zapata (now dead) registered her before she was abandoned, listing the mother as “failing to appear”, as he had done in the case of another baby girl.

Nieves Ayres, who now lives in New York, was held in Londres 38 and Tejas Verdes, two torture centres. She was systematically gang-raped, and in her account she describes that rats were inserted in her vagina, and she was subjected to sexual abuse by dogs.

She became pregnant, but suffered a miscarriage.

Espinoza noted that these cases are considered crimes against humanity, which means there is no statute of limitations and they can still be investigated, even though 24 years have passed since Chile’s return to democracy.

Fríes, for her part, said “these issues will probably be with us for a long time to come, which is why it is important to understand that the new times open up new doors with respect to what happened during the dictatorship and the need to bring these memories to light so that this never again happens in Chile.

“In this country things have moved forward slowly, very slowly at times, but with the certainty that there will be no backsliding. And this issue is not going to disappear, in case someone was hoping for that,” she concluded.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Valerie Dee

U.S. Twists Arms to Help Defeat Resolution on Palestine

Riyad H. Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the U.N., addresses the Security Council after the vote. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Riyad H. Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the U.N., addresses the Security Council after the vote. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 31 2014 (IPS)

The United States re-asserted its political and economic clout – and its ability to twist arms and perhaps metaphorically break kneecaps – when it successfully lobbied to help defeat a crucial Security Council resolution on the future of Palestine this week.

Nadia Hijab, executive director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, told IPS, “Did [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry manage to pull the rug out from under Palestine by convincing supportive Nigeria to abstain during the 13 calls he made to world leaders to torpedo the resolution?”Despite U.S. threats and blandishments, the PLO/Palestine does have room for maneuver in the legal and diplomatic arena – it just has not yet been effective at using it.” — Nadia Hijab

“Or did the U.S. pressure Palestine to go to a vote now, [in order] to ensure failure, since the Jan. 1 change in Security Council composition favours the Palestinians?”

If so, what promises of future support did it make? asked Hijab.

The resolution failed because it did not receive the required nine votes for adoption by the Security Council. Even if it had, it likely would have still failed, because the United States had threatened to cast its veto.

But this time around, Washington did not have to wield its veto power – and avoid political embarrassment.

The eight countries voting for the resolution, which called for the full and phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territories by the end of 2017, were France, China, Russia, Luxembourg, Argentina, Chad, Chile and Jordan.

The two negative votes came from the United States and Australia, while the five countries that abstained were the UK, South Korea, Rwanda, Nigeria and Lithuania.

A single positive vote, perhaps from Nigeria, would have made a difference in the adoption of the resolution.

Days before the vote, Kerry was working the phones, calling on dozens of officials, who were members of the Security Council, pressing them for a vote against the resolution or an abstention.

According to State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke, one such call was to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, which ensured an abstention from Nigeria, a country which was earlier expected to vote for the resolution.

After the vote, there were three lingering questions unanswered: Did the United States put pressure on Palestine to force the vote on the draft resolution on Tuesday since the re-composition of the Security Council would have been more favourable to the Palestinians, come Jan. 1?

And why didn’t Palestine wait for another week to garner those votes and ensure success?

Or did they misjudge the vote count?

Beginning Jan. 1, the composition of the Security Council would have changed with three new non-permanent members favourable to Palestine: Malaysia, Venezuela and Spain.

Samir Sanbar, a former U.N. assistant secretary-general who keeps track of Middle East politics, told IPS it is beyond a misjudgment of the vote count or miscalculation of the timing when in only a few days there would have been more likely positive votes by Malaysia, Spain and Venezuela.

“The actual intent of the Palestinian Administrative Authority from that failed move – and with whom it coordinated discreetly – remains to be politically observed,” he said.

“It is a tactical and strategic retreat at the expense of the universally supported inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, as stipulated in a succession of clearly assertive resolutions (including on statehood; right of return/or compensation; Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories; inalienable people’s rights).”

These rights, he said, have been endorsed by an overwhelming majority when the Palestinian cause was predominant in U.N. deliberations, and when Palestinian leadership was united in its quest and all Arab states, let alone most of the international community, were solidly behind it.

Sanbar said political logic would suggest maintaining what was gained during a positive period because any new resolution in the current weak status within a tragically fragmented Arab world will obviously entail a substantive retreat.

“It may be more helpful if efforts were mobilised to sharpen the focus on implementation of already existing resolutions and gain wider alliances to accomplish practical steps based on an enlightened knowledge of working through the United Nations rather than merely resorting to it on occasions when other options fail,” Sanbar declared.

Still, Hijab told IPS, whatever the case, many Palestinians breathed a sigh of relief that the resolution did not pass because it would have given a U.N. imprimatur to a lower bar on Palestinian rights.

The resolution implicitly accepted settlements with talk of land swaps and watered down refugee rights with reference to an agreed solution, effectively handing Israel a veto over Palestinian rights.

She said the Palestine Liberation Organization/Palestine will now be forced to take some meaningful action to maintain what little credibility it has with the Palestinian people.

“Despite U.S. threats and blandishments, the PLO/Palestine does have room for maneuver in the legal and diplomatic arena – it just has not yet been effective at using it,” she said. “It must urgently do so in 2015 – the 2335th Palestinian was killed by Israel this week as it colonises the West Bank and besieges Gaza – while Palestinian refugees suffer in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.”

Hijab said the Palestinian people need respite from this cruel reality, and they need their rights.

After the vote, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, told the Council: “We voted against this resolution not because we are comfortable with the status quo. We voted against it because … peace must come from hard compromises that occur at the negotiating table.”

But she warned Israel, a close U.S. ally, that continued “settlement activity” will undermine the chances of peace.

Riyad Mansour, U.N. ambassador to Palestine, told the Council, “Our effort was a serious effort, genuine effort, to open the door for peace. Unfortunately, the Security Council is not ready to listen to that message.”

On the heels of the failed resolution, Palestine took steps Wednesday to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague – specifically to bring charges of war crimes against Israel – even though the U.S. Congress, which is virulently pro-Israel, has warned that any such move would result in severe economic sanctions.

“There is aggression practiced against our land and our country, and the Security Council has let us down — where shall we go?” Abbas said Wednesday, as reported by the New York Times, as he signed onto the court’s charter, along with 17 other international treaties and conventions.

“We want to complain to this organisation,” he said, referring to the ICC. “As long as there is no peace, and the world doesn’t prioritise peace in this region, this region will live in constant conflict. The Palestinian cause is the key issue to be settled.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

Sri Lanka Still in Search of a Comprehensive Disaster Management Plan

A novice monk stares at the sea, after taking part in commemoration events to mark the 10th anniversary of the Asian tsunami in Sri Lanka’s southern town of Hikkaduwa. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A novice monk stares at the sea, after taking part in commemoration events to mark the 10th anniversary of the Asian tsunami in Sri Lanka’s southern town of Hikkaduwa. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
KALMUNAI, Sri Lanka, Dec 31 2014 (IPS)

About six months after a massive tsunami slammed the island nation of Sri Lanka on Dec. 26, 2004, large plumes of smoke could be frequently seen snaking skywards from the beach near the village of Sainathimaruthu, just east of Kalmunai town, about 300 km from the capital, Colombo.

A petrified population had devised a makeshift early-warning system that would alert their fellow villagers of any incoming tsunami – burning rubber tires on the sand by the sea.

Residents of small coastal villagers would regularly look up from the task of removing rubble or repairing their demolished houses to check if the dark, smoky trails were still visible in the sky.

“You have to face a monstrous wave washing over your roof, taking everything in its path, to realise that you can’t drop your guard, ever.” — Iqbal Aziz, a tsunami survivor in eastern Sri Lanka
“If the smoke vanished, that meant the waves were advancing and we had to move out,” explained Iqbal Aziz, a local from the Kalmunai area in the eastern Batticaloa District.

Their fears were not unfounded. The villages of Maradamunai, Karativu and Sainathimaruthu, located 370 km east of Colombo, bore the brunt of the disaster, recording 3,000 deaths out of a total death toll of 35,322.

Humble homes, built at such close quarters that each structure caressed another, were pulverized when the waves crashed ashore the day after Christmas. What scared the villagers most was the shock of it all, with virtually no warnings issued ahead of the catastrophe by any government body.

In retrospect, there was plenty of time to relocate vulnerable communities to higher ground – it took over two hours for the killer waves to reach Kalmunai from their origin in northwest Indonesia. But the absence of official mechanisms resulted in a massive death toll.

Trauma and paranoia led to the makeshift early-warning system, but 10 years later the villagers have stopped looking to the sky for signs of another disaster. Instead, they check their cell phones for updates of extreme weather events.

The new system, fine-tuned throughout the post-tsunami decade, is certainly an improvement on its predecessor. Just last month, on Nov. 15, a huge 7.3-magnitude offshore earthquake was reported about 150 km northeast of Indonesia’s Malaku Islands. Villagers like Aziz only had to consult their mobile phones to know that they were in no danger, and could rest easy.

The pulverised beach in Kalmunai, located in eastern Sri Lanka, was stripped of most of its standing structures by the ferocity of the waves. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The pulverised beach in Kalmunai, located in eastern Sri Lanka, was stripped of most of its standing structures by the ferocity of the waves. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

“The tsunami was like a wake-up call,” Ivan de Silva, secretary of the ministry of irrigation and water management, told IPS.

Besides the tragic death toll, the reconstruction bill – a whopping three billion dollars – also served as a jolt to the government to lay far more solid disaster preparedness plans.

Dealing with the destruction of 100,000 homes and buildings, and coordinating the logistics of over half a million displaced citizens, provided further impetus for creating a blueprint for handling natural catastrophes.

In May 2005, Sri Lanka implemented its first Disaster Management Act, which paved the way for the establishment of the Disaster Management Council headed by the president.

Three months later, in August 2005, the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) came into being, tasked with overseeing all disaster preparedness programmes, early warnings and post-disaster work.

Now, less than a decade later, it has offices in all of the country’s 25 districts, and carries out regular emergency evacuation drills to prep the population for possible calamities.

In April 2012, the DMC evacuated over a million people along the coast following a tsunami warning, the largest exercise ever undertaken in Sri Lanka’s history.

But the national plan is far from bullet proof. As Sarath Lal Kumara, assistant director of the DMC, told IPS: “Maintaining preparedness levels is an on-going process and needs constant attention.”

In fact, glaring lapses in disaster management continue to cost lives on an island increasingly battered by extreme weather events.

The latest such incident occurred during the same week as the 10th anniversary commemoration of the tsunami, when heavy rains lashed the northern and eastern regions of the country.

By the time the rains eased, 35 were dead, three listed as missing, a million had been marooned and over 110,000 displaced. Most of the deaths were due to landsides in the district of Badulla, capital of the southern Uva Province.

Unfortunately, two months ago, another village in the same district suffered multiple fatalities due to landslides. On Oct. 29, in the hilly village of Meeriyabedda, located on the southern slopes of Sri Lanka’s central hills, a landslide prompted by heavy rains killed 12 and 25 have been listed as missing.

A man walks past the 10-foot wall near the boundary of the Southern Extension of the Colombo harbour, which was built as a protective measure against a future tsunami. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A man walks past the 10-foot wall near the boundary of the Southern Extension of the Colombo harbour, which was built as a protective measure against a future tsunami. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

There was no clear early warning disseminated to the villagers, despite the National Building Research Organisation (NBRO) issuing warnings several days before of possible landslides. Nor was any pre-planning undertaken using NBRO hazard maps that clearly indicated landslide risks in the villages.

The twin tragedies were not the first time – and probably won’t be the last – that lives were lost due to failure to effectively communicate early warnings.

In November 2011, 29 people died in the Southern Province when gale-force winds sneaked up the coast unannounced. In July 2013, over 70 were killed in the same region, largely because fisher communities in the area were not informed about the annual southwest monsoon moving at a much faster speed than anticipated.

“We need a much more robust early warning dissemination mechanism, and better public understanding about such warnings,” DMC’s Kumara said.

Fast Facts: Natural Disasters in Sri Lanka

According to the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), around 500,000 Sri Lankans are impacted directly by natural disasters each year. The average death toll is roughly 1,200.

The island of little over 20 million people also needs to factor in damages touching 50 million dollars annually due to natural disasters, the most frequent of which historically have been floods caused by heavy rains.

The latter point – cultivating awareness among the general public – is perhaps the single most important aspect of a comprehensive national plan, according to experts.

The recent landslide proved that simple trainings alone are not sufficient to prompt efficient responses to natural disasters.

Meeriyabedda, for instance, has been the site of numerous training and awareness programmes, including a major initiative carried out in conjunction with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) in 2009 that involved mock drills and the distribution of rain gauges and loudspeakers to locals in the area.

Yet there was no evidence to suggest that villagers used the training or equipment prior to the landslide.

R M S Bandara, head of the NBRO’s Landslide Risk Research and Management Division, told IPS that while extensive maps of the island’s hazard-prone areas are freely available, they are not being put to good use.

“Not only the [general] public but even public officials are not aware of disaster preparedness. It still remains an issue that is outside public discussions, [except] when disasters strike,” he asserted.

Currently, only those who have faced disasters head-on understand and appreciate the need to think and act at lightening-quick speeds. “You have to face a monstrous wave washing over your roof, taking everything in its path, to realise that you can’t drop your guard, ever,” Aziz said.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

Guantánamo Paradoxes Tested in Uruguay

The six freed Guantánamo detainees line up to hold a Uruguayan baby. In this picture, Tunisian Abdul Bin Mohammed Abis Ourgy holds up the infant while Syrian Ali Hussein Muhammed Shaaban watches. Credit: Diana Cariboni/IPS

The six freed Guantánamo detainees line up to hold a Uruguayan baby. In this picture, Tunisian Abdul Bin Mohammed Abis Ourgy holds up the infant while Syrian Ali Hussein Muhammed Shaaban watches. Credit: Diana Cariboni/IPS

By Diana Cariboni
MONTEVIDEO, Dec 31 2014 (IPS)

In the summery afternoon of a beachside neighbourhood not far from the Uruguayan capital, nothing could sound more unusual than the Muslim call to prayer chanted by Tunisian Abdul Bin Mohammed Ourgy, a few days after being freed from the United States military prison in Guantánamo, Cuba.

One of the first acts of Ourgy and the five others who arrived in Uruguay Dec. 7, after 12 years behind bars, was to figure out their new coordinates and find the orientation to Mecca, the Saudi city faced by the Muslim world during prayer.Political perversities have placed on their shoulders the burden of demonstrating that prisoners at Guantánamo can be freed without the risk of turning into what, according to Washington’s latest version, they never were: terrorists.

It is not surprising that anybody subjected to Guantánamo’s living conditions would find a lifeline in religion, homeland traditions and family memories.

But religion has lost none of its relevance for these men since they were suddenly introduced to a strange culture – Western but not U.S. or European— with a language different from both their native Arabic and from the English they were forced to speak with their jailers in Guantánamo.

The group of four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian is still bound by the silence imposed by Washington regarding their experiences in the prison. IPS met with them for the second time Dec. 30 in the house where the Syrians are living in downtown Montevideo. A few are already speaking some Spanish and struggling to adjust to their new reality.

Contacts with relatives have been established and the men are now looking for ways to reunite with their families, with the support of the Uruguayan government.

Syrian Jihad Deyab – well known because he protested his detention for years through hunger strikes and litigated against the U.S. force-feedings— is gaining strength and hoping to join his wife and three children soon.

His lawyer, Cori Crider, told IPS that “we had appealed Judge Gladys Kessler’s decision denying us relief from various force-feeding practices, when he was released. We have now asked the Court of Appeals to vacate that judgment on the basis that the government ceased its illegal conduct by transferring him, but that request hasn’t been decided.”

Yet “Deyab is still part of the case in which we say the video-tapes of his force-feedings should be made public,” led by 16 media organisations under the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution, and “he very much supports what the media are trying to do,” she said.

After the shock of liberation, the six men are still struggling to fully understand where they are and to match as much as possible their beliefs and expectations for a new life with Uruguay’s social norms.

Difficult, but necessary, is to reconcile the diverse social and political expectations and interests surrounding the group since the government of José Mujica decided to host them as refugees on humanitarian grounds.

With just 3.3 million people, Uruguay is “almost empty,” Palestinian Mohammed Tahamatan told IPS. He finds this is a wonderful fact.

This country was made by successive migratory waves, but it didn’t receive many new immigrants for a long time. On the contrary, it has tended to lose its own population, particularly through young people chasing better opportunities abroad.

However, the economic prosperity of the last decade attracted a modest but constant influx of foreigners: Spaniards, Peruvians, Dominicans, Indians and Pakistanis. This is something new for a society which has become excessively homogenous and whose representations of the Middle East and the Muslim world are still heavy loaded with exoticism.

“Exoticism is not good… and it comes with a certain degree of fear of Islam,” Javier Miranda, human rights director for the Presidency of Uruguay, told IPS. Awareness of this “is part of our own development as a society,” he added.

Social expressions of solidarity with the 42 refugees from the Syrian civil war who arrived in Uruguay last October, and those shown to Guantánamo’s former inmates while they were visiting a street market, are genuine.

But it is yet to be seen how much of it is determined by this sense of exoticism or by the international attention this country has gained for adopting these policies. Furthermore, as the beneficiaries are a small group of people, such solidarity entails a very low economic and social cost.

Such a reception is absent for the Peruvian, Bolivian or Dominican immigrants who escape from poverty in their countries and are not flagged by any governmental campaign. Some of them have even been victims of labour exploitation and trafficking.

For the governing party, the centre-left coalition Frente Amplio, it is vital to ensure the success of the resettlement schemes of the Syrian conflict refugees and the former Guantánamo inmates.

In both cases, Mujica cited the goal of “setting an example” for neighbouring countries. A successful integration would silence critics and ease fears of perceived or real risks. Thus controlling developments and avoiding outbursts become crucial.

Since the release earlier this month of four inmates who were repatriated to Afghanistan, there are now 132 prisoners in Guantánamo, 63 of them cleared for release. Out of the remaining 69, 10 are currently or have been on trial and 59 are labelled as dangerous by authorities who, nevertheless, recognise there is inadequate evidence to prosecute them in court.

At least one of the six men transferred to Uruguay is willing to advocate for more South American countries hosting Guantánamo’s inmates, IPS learned.

The Uruguayan experiment is also subject to U.S. expectations. The most paradoxical is to avoid the outcome that persons unfairly imprisoned for many years become, once free, active enemies of the U.S.

The same government who produced their criminal files declared in 2009 there was no evidence against them and they could be released.

The same government which forced them to fly to Montevideo shackled and blindfolded sent to the Uruguayan authorities a letter ensuring that “there is no information that the above-mentioned individuals were involved in conducting or facilitating terrorist activities against the United States or its partners or allies.”

The same government campaigning for the hosting of further Guantánamo inmates by third countries has a Congress which has banned this possibility in its territory.

Some local analysts in Uruguay have questioned which of the two versions should be believed. If Washington lied in the files, it could be lying now again, they argue.

This analysis ignores a basic guarantee of the rule of law: that it is guilt, not innocence, which must be proven.

The “war against terror” led by the U.S. since 2001 is seriously discredited in Uruguay. But its narrative has coloured public opinion. People have not expressed outright rejection of the six freed men, but opinion polls carried out this year show support of just 20 per cent for their arrival.

Washington insisted on banning any image of the release. Yet the world has already seen the first pictures of these men in the street, at the beach or holding a baby, as featured in this story.

These photos counterbalance the only produced so far by the U.S. military apparatus: the exasperated faces of the inmates with shaved heads and long beards.

Dressed like any Uruguayan men, it would be so easy for them to just blend into the crowd and live their lives in privacy. But they are media celebrities and subjects of surveillance for the intelligence services of a number of countries.

Under all these circumstances, nobody should expect 100 per cent success, not the least because they are traumatised. However, political perversities have placed on their shoulders the burden of demonstrating that prisoners at Guantánamo can be freed without the risk of turning into what, according to Washington’s latest version, they never were: terrorists.

Edited by Kitty Stapp