HAVANA TIMES — Four Republican senators submitted a bill on Tuesday to bar President Barack Obama from returning the territory occupied by the US Guantanamo Naval Base to Cuba – as Raul Castro’s government demands – without prior authorization from Congress, reported dpa news.
The bill presented by Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Richard Burr, Kelly Ayotte and Tom Cotton prohibits the “modification, termination, abandonment or transfer” of the lease contract that the United States maintains with Cuba for the land and waters containing the Guantanamo naval station.
If the bill were approved, Obama would require authorization from Congress to return said territory to the Cuban government.
“Since announcing the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Obama has given the Castro regime concession after concession, prioritizing political promises over national security, the integrity of America’s justice system, human rights and democracy,” said Rubio, a Republican pre-candidate for the November presidential elections.
The openly anti-Castro Miami-born Rubio, whose parents were Cubans, issued a communiqué stating that the Guantanamo Naval Base has been “vital” to US naval and coast guard operations in the Caribbean.
“The Guantanamo Bay Naval Station has been an essential tool for our military to resupply US ships supporting counter illicit trafficking and humanitarian missions in Latin America, as well as for mass migration contingencies,” the presidential pre-candidate added.
Commenting on Obama’s visit to Cuba this coming March – the first visit by a US president in nearly 90 years – Senator Burr stated that,
“As President Obama continues to court the Castro regime, I believe it is important that Congress make it clear that he cannot give up our base in such a strategic location,” Burr pointed out.
Senator Cotton added that this bill “will stop President Obama from cutting a secret side deal on his March trip to Havana and ceding control of Guantanamo Bay to the Cubans, another major concession that would be detrimental to the United States’ safety and security.”
The bill was presented the same day Obama submitted a plan to Congress to shut down the Guantanamo detention center (set up by the Bush administration in 2001 and used to imprison terrorist suspects, today housing less than 100 inmates) “once and for all.”
The Obama administration has stated on several occasions that it has no intentions of returning the land occupied by the base to Cuba if it ultimately manages to shut down the prison.
Havana demands that the territory be returned to Cuba and that the United States lift the embargo on the island to normalize its bilateral relations with Washington.
The Guantanamo Naval Base is located towards the south-eastern end of the island. Cuba considers it an occupied territory, but the United States refuses to return it, arguing that it signed a perpetual lease for 72 square kilometers of the Guantanamo Bay, by virtue of the Cuban-American Treaty of 1903.
Every year, Washington sends Havana a 4,000 dollar check as a symbolic yearly payment for the lease which the Cuban government refuses to cash.