Marco Rubio visits Guantanamo Bay in first visit to Cuba


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), photographed in October 2011. (Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP)

Rubio, whose parents immigrated from Cuba in 1956, is visiting the base to inspect U.S. terrorist detention operations as part of his membership on the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to spokesman Alex Conant.

The one-day trip includes a tour of the base, meetings with top base officials and a tour of the Expeditionary Legal Complex (ELC), where military tribunals of detainees recently began, and Camp VI, the facility that holds U.S. terrorism detainees.

The design of the ELC permits military officials to try up to six defendants jointly and includes features permitting the use of top secret information, according to the court’s Web site.

The visit “will allow Sen. Rubio an opportunity to better understand the role Guantanamo Bay plays in U.S. detention operations, and examine how the military commission process for trying the terrorists housed there is proceeding,” Conant said in an e-mail.

Rubio had no plans to leave the military base while in Cuba, Conant said, noting that the senator left Florida on Tuesday morning and planned to be back in time for a press conference on the trip by 5 p.m. ET.

The symbolism of Rubio’s visit adds another wrinkle to his life story that is deeply tied to the political history of the country. The fact that the trip is tied to the senator’s work with the intelligence committee also should bolster his foreign policy credentials and inevitably will add to the speculation that Mitt Romney may tap him to serve as his vice presidential running mate.

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Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.
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