History, challenges and opportunities of the Guantanamo Naval Base

Alberto N Jones

Entrance to the US Guantanamo Naval Base. Photo: Flikr.com

HAVANA TIMES — On December 17, 2014 a historic announcement took place. The presidents of the United States Barack Obama and Raul Castro of Cuba agreed to take the first steps leading to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations broken off over 50 years ago. A happy and optimistic world holds strong hopes that peace and tranquility have reached our region.

This ignominious chapter of hunger, sickness, pain, death and destruction that the embargo meant for the Cuban people and (which glaringly reminds us of General Valeriano Weyler Reconcentration of 1896), should not become an unsurmountable divide in America, but rather a bridge and a symbol of change on our continent.

The imperialist spirit that has governed US relations with Cuba is all too obvious. The embargo, invasions, sabotages, murders and bio-terrorism against the island are now history. The presence of the Guantanamo Naval Base exemplifies the annexation goals of the United States, which date back to the presidency of James Polk in 1840.

Originating as the spoils of war, wrested away from Cuba as a condition for retiring the US occupying forces in 1903, those 45 square miles of land, air and water, for which the US pretend to pay $4,025 a year, is a dagger in the heart of the Cuban people. It impedes the free air, land and sea navigation of a portion of Cuban territory and has severely contaminated extensive areas used as a bombing range.

Map: wikipedia.org

The relation between GITMO and the city of Guantanamo is bittersweet. It derives from the fact that it provided 2,500 jobs in time of peace and up to 5,000 during WW II and the Korean conflict, during which and after, my family contributed approximately 150 years of service to the US Department of Defense. At that time it became a center of abuse, repression, impunity, corruption, kick-backs, massive drug addiction and sexually transmissible diseases, by creating in Guantanamo city, the largest red light district in Cuba.

The story doesn’t end there. A number of Cuban civil service employees of GITMO were detained, tortured and killed. These included Lino Rodriguez 1940; Lorenzo Salomon 1954; Manuel Prieto and Ruben Lopez Sabariego 1961, and Rodolfo Rosell in 1962. Likewise two border guards were killed, Ramon Lopez Peña 1964 and Luis Ramirez Lopez 1966. Others, including Luis Ramirez Reyes, Antonio Campos and Andres Noel Larduet, were wounded with gunshot fired by marines inside GITMO.

From mid-1959, GITMO became a center of conspiracy and sabotage, where counterrevolutionaries and others sought by Cuban authorities found refuge, support and transportation to the United States. WGBY, the Armed Forces Radio Station became bilingual and transmitted subversive and encoded messages into Cuba. Numerous simulated attacks against Cuba were conducted and millions of worthless pesos laundered.

The Guantanamo Naval Base prison camp. Foto: cubadebate.cu

In 1964 the GITMO Commanding Officer suddenly fired 700 employees trying to create economic chaos in Guantanamo City. The Cuban government assumed this burden by continuing to pay their salaries to avoid the economic meltdown of the city. Although most of these employees had worked for 20 or more years at GITMO, their retirement disbursement was withheld for over 30 years, a demand presented to the Secretary General of the UN Javier Perez de Cuellar and to the Vatican.

This repulsive behavior of GITMO, should not be transformed into hatred or lament, instead, it should encourage us to strive to transform GITMO into a bastion of hope, peace and development of humanity by returning this enclave intact to Cuba, restore its contaminated environment and finance:

  • A Caribbean Medical Center specializing in the treatment of tropical and chronic diseases.
  • An International Mental Health Center for millions of drug addicts, PTSD sufferers and other neurological ailments.
  • A large middle thru university educational center for minority, poorly educated students, afflicted by poverty, drugs, early pregnancy, violence and police brutality and
  • Develop an affordable and safe retirement housing and assisted living community, where was once a center of torture, horror and death.

View Comments

  • It really does not matter what political colour the government of Cuba has. Nobody has the right to maintain a naval base against the wishes of the country where it is based.. The USA had a similar arrangement with Panama. Thankfully Jimmy Carter had the good sense to end that arrangement.
    Recent events in Crimea also serve as a warning. As part of a deal to unilaterally give up nuclear weapons (by Ucraine!) and to get recognition for its sovereignty over Crimea Russia was allowed to maintain a naval base. The rest is history.

  • As a peace offering America could possibly dismantle Guantanamo and return the equipment and personnell back to the USA, and the Cuban government in return could turn the area into a wildlife sanctuary. I know that I possibly live in a fool's paradise, but hell why not?

  • Dr. Jones forgets to mention the part about the lawful treaty that Cuba signed that conveys this land to the US. But then, if Castro and his sycophants can simply ignore their own 1940 Constitution, it is an even smaller step for them to try to ignore international treaties. Good luck with trying to get the base back.

    • For even Moses to imply that the U. S. obtained Guantanamo Bay via a free-willed "treaty" boggles the mind. But it is emblematic of the propaganda that has incessantly been grilled into the American psyche since 1959 when the U. S. exacerbated its support of the Batista-Mafia rule in Cuba by continuing to support the vile exiles from that regime who had fled to U. S. soil. Moses, you have probably repeated your propaganda so often that you may actually believe it and assume others, and not just those who watch Fox News, believe it. Guantanamo Bay was stolen from Cuba "in perpetuity" within five years after the U. S. wrested total control of Cuba with the easy victory in the 1898 Spanish American War. No Cuban was represented in the treaty that ended that fabricated conflict and no Cuban had the freedom to say no to a military power's theft of Guantanamo Bay. That, Moses, is not an anti-American view; it is a pro-American view because, as a democracy-loving American, I lament what Dr. Jones calls America's "imperialist" view of what should be a sovereign nation. Perhaps you too should worry about the image such imperialist treatment of Cuba reflects on the American democracy. Of course, when propagandists can bombard Americans with the idea that the terrorist bombing of the child-laden Cubana Flight 455 was "the biggest blow yet against Castro," the image of the U. S. democracy badly needs repair. That is hardly possible when Counter-revolutionaries hide behind the might of a superpower from well-heeled sanctuaries in Miami, Union City, California, etc. while damning both the island and history, showing little regard for Cubans on the island while codifying special favors for Cuban exiles, gigantic favors not available to any non-Cuban exiles. Is that democracy, Moses? Is the answer to the U.S.-Cuban quagmire the return of the Batistiano-Mafiosi form of democracy to the island? I think not. I think, left to their own devices, Cubans on the island -- not in Miami, Union City, and California -- should chart the island's course.

      • There you go again spouting off about Batista. I don't know one person, not one, who advocates a return to that period in Cuban history. When responding to my comments, you can well assume that I also do not support a Cuban future where the island is led by a Miami oligarchy any more than I loathe the Castro oligarchy that has ruined Cuba since 1959. In the Treaty of Paris of 1898, Spain surrendered control of all of Cuba to the United States. It wasn't until 5 years later, in 1903, that Cuba signed a treaty that leased Guantanamo Bay to the United States for use as a naval station, with the understanding that this would reduce the military footprint of the U.S. on the island. At the time the lease was signed by CUBA, the US was occupying 5 military bases in Cuba. The GITMO lease resulted in the US giving back control of the other 4 facilities. While it can certainly be argued that any contract between the US and Cuba, then and now, represents a contract between unequal parties, that does not necessarily make it an illegal contract or one signed under duress. There is no historical record that Cuba's leaders at the time did so with any less than "free will". In hindsight it was a stupid move, but at the time Cuba's leaders were desperate to appease the US in hopes of future patronage given the recent loss of their Spanish wetnurse. Now that you mention it, sounds a lot like the Cuba of today once their Venezuelan teat dries up.

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