Must the US Return Guantanamo for Normal Relations?

The US Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba

By Henry G. Delforn*

HAVANA TIMES – Really? … “returned”? – I don’t think so. Nonetheless, that was the insinuating headline from the Miami Herald long ago when the now retired president of Cuba addressed CELAC in 2015 [1]. The headline was not a direct quote and it is not what I literally heard in the speech. The speech contained no ultimatum for relations, this was a misinterpretation due to cultural differences. Fact is, normal relations can, and did, continue in the Obama thaw without Guantanamo. The issue of Guantanamo is not that big of a deal in light of Cuba’s embargoed economy. The issue is more idealistic than practical. And frankly, based on my experience, I don’t believe Cuba gives Guantanamo any priority; the Lineamientos, as well as other things, speak for themselves.

One other thing that speaks for itself is Cuba’s legal effort to take back Guantanamo (not “returned”). Oh sure, much has been written on the legalities of Guantanamo. Take for example, the 2015 article by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, “The Guantanamo Base, A U.S. Colonial Relic Impeding Peace with Cuba”. The article provides good details of the legal basis for Cuba’s objection to the occupation. It even devotes a section called, “International Law: An Opportunity for Legal Appeal”, describing where Cuba appealed to the UN Human Rights Council regarding the illegality of the military base, as well as, the rightful legal issue of what i term “contract signed under duress” due to the Platt Amendment [2], now that’s a definite ultimatum! And say nothing of the countless times Guantanamo is mentioned by Cuban government representatives. But this is all just talk, there is no legal action, no lawsuits being filed to take back Guantanamo. So there can’t be much real interest.

It may appear reasonable for someone to say, well hey look, Cuba can’t afford to spend much on legal battles, after all Cuba hasn’t taken any direct legal court action on embargo laws either, be it in U.S. courts or internationally, so clearly, they can’t afford the legal battles. The response to that would be maybe, maybe it’s true that resources are better spent on food security, limiting the embargo battles to the arena of public opinion via decades of U.N. resolutions. But there are no similar battles for Guantanamo! Why not also battle for Guantanamo in the “court” of public opinion via U.N. resolutions based on the findings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)?

Why not take action to seek a General Assembly resolution pursuant to Article 96 of the U.N. Charter [3] requesting an advisory opinion from the ICJ on whether the U.S. is in violation of the Guantanamo lease? This action has relatively minimal legal cost and it leads to yet another international U.S. embarrassment. Fact is, this tactic was suggested to a Nicaraguan ambassador, H.E. Carlos J. Argüello-Gómez, as a diplomatic pass-along to his Cuban counterparts. Why ambassador Argüello? Because he is experienced with the ICJ. In 1984 he attempted to bring justice to the criminal actions of U.S. foreign policy in Nicaragua before the ICJ [4]. And while we do not know if the good ambassador actually executed the pass-along, we do know that the Cuban Ministry of Justice has no response to the proposal. 

So hey Miami Herald, Guantanamo is no big thing for Cuba, trust me.

(*) Guest author Henry G. Delforn is an investor (Cuban-born U.S. citizen who enjoys his independent political affiliation liberties).

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

4 thoughts on “Must the US Return Guantanamo for Normal Relations?

  • “Why does not Cuba worry about Gutanimo”?, Valerie asks. Moses in his opinion about the article alludes to a legitimate reason. But there is more.

    I am sure there are many other credible reasons. One reason for Cuba’s reticent silence on the Guantánamo situation is economic fear. Absolutely the US owes Cuba a significant amount of money for its so called “occupation” of Cuban territory. Fair enough.

    However, the Americans will retort, and with economic justification, what about all those valuable assets Fidel Castro and his Revolution confiscated (some say stole) from American business owners. One prominent example: the Bacardi family rum business. How much was that alcohol company worth at that time? Moreover, how about the plethora of Americans living in the US whose property and assets were taken – stolen?- , how much money was lost in today’s dollars?

    Extrapolate the opportunity costs over 60 plus years for all the value of property and business assets confiscated over a substantial time period and the total value is a sum the Cuban government would simply rather not discuss, certainly not in a public form. Hence the stalemate on the Guantánamo situation – tit for tat.

    With regard to that Canadian teenager held in Guantánamo prison, Valerie is correct such a “travesty” did occur. He was held in Guantánamo prison for allegedly throwing a grenade in a combat arena which, unfortunately, killed an American medic. The Canadian was a teenager at the time of the incident. The Americans asked the Canadian government to have him interned at Guantánamo. He allegedly stated he was tortured.

    The Canadian government eventually had him released to Canada much to the consternation of the Canadian Conservative opposition because he claimed his rights were violated and the courts sided with his human rights violations. The Canadian Liberal government had to compensate him with a substantial monetary payout worth millions of Canadian dollars. Many Canadians were not pleased with this substantial monetary payout.

    Guantánamo Bay, Cuba where the American military base is located will always be a contentious issue between the US and Cuba because the economic implications for an amicable resolution are huge and a very long way off.

  • Well, interesting read. Why does not Cuba worry about Gutanimo. A friend lives in Cuba and says you don’t want to be in any Cuban jail. I have seen a true documentary of a man put in jail ( no charges against him) after the 911 attacks in the USA. He had horrible things happen to him, and 2 female lawyers got him free. But yet he had to stay in jail for years after he thought he was free. Then, he finally got out. I was told that the USA uses this jail to hide people,so that they won’t be found. I don’t know why Cuba allows Americans to still be there , when the embargo is still going on. President Oboma tried closing it down but did not have the support. I just know they have had children in there at 13 or 14 years old and were Canadian citizen. But no child needs to be in prison anywhere in the world. So, for that reason, the USA needs to leave and lift the embargos. J.m.o.

  • Without the US Embargo and the US occupation of Guantanamo, Cuba would have nothing to hang its “woe is me” claim on. The reality of the failed State would be solely to blame on the Castro dictatorship. It remains in the Cuban government’s interest to continue to allow these minor obstacles to exist as justification for everything bad in Cuba.

  • The Cuban Claims Act has to be taken care of before the Embargo can be dropped that’s the Law

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