In a full-page ad in The New York Times on Monday,
the American Civil Liberties Union urged Obama to close
Guantanamo Bay on his first day in office, “with the stroke of a pen.”
In good Spanish we say “de un plumazo” to mean the rapidity with which a decision taken must be guaranteed by a signature. Translated into English, the phrase would be “with the stroke of a pen,” which is the way the American Civil Liberties Union demands that the next president of the United States forever close the infamous prison that country has on a military base located on Guantanamo Bay.
My antitotalitarian scruples, fueled by the understandable prejudice that a person suffers after enduring a half century dictatorship, set off alarms in the face of this request. It frightens me that someone has so much power, even to do good. Don’t you know the strokes of the pen we have had in these latitudes and even more, “strokes of the phone call” and even “strokes of the court.” With the gesture of a hand, waved from the window of a four-door Soviet jeep, crops have been destroyed, ministers and ambassadors dismissed, the construction of dams ordered, events cancelled, wars started, doctors sent to other countries, a book censored, more prisons opened… and more that we do not know.
But sometimes, time is pressing and one has to leave behind certain prejudices. Prison installations should be under the permanent observation of the competent justice system, and not outside the borders, free from control. The closing of this prison is demanded by those who see the prestige of the United States affected as well as by those who are sincerely worried about any outrage that is committed and, of course, by us as well, who are the true owners of the island, the whole island.
When Obama takes the pen in his hand (it doesn’t even have to be the first day in the Oval Office), whether to free his country from the heavy burden of this ignominy or to bring justice to those whose rights have been violated, would that someone would show him on the map where Guantánamo is, and in passing comment that American citizens cannot visit the rest of the island, which is not only the most beautiful part, but also the most interesting; would that someone would explain that over this large alligator in the middle of the Caribbean sea there are millions of people (tens of thousands if you want to be conservative) who breathed sighs of relief to know that it was he who was elected; people who believe very strongly that he has a unique and possibly unrepeatable opportunity, not to solve all our problems with a single stroke of the pen but, with the caress that a pen is capable of, to send a message; to make, it might even be, a gesture of the hand.