I had often wondered why the US had a Naval Base in Cuba when political relations between the US and Cuba is nonexistent. At first it seemed rather contradictory, so I decided to find out the history of this Naval base and more recently, the terrorist prison.
There is a lot of history on Guantanamo Bay, so I’ll stick to the main points and provide links to further information. Guantanamo Bay is the oldest US base outside of continental United States. It’s located in the Oriente Province on the southeast corner of Cuba, and about 400 miles from Miami Florida.
The area of 116 square kilometers was first leased in 1903 by the United States from Tomás Estrada Palma, an American citizen who later became the first President of Cuba. In 1934 a treaty was ratified where the lease payment was modified from $2,000 in gold to the 1934 equivalent of $4,085US. On January 1st, 1959, Cuban territory outside of the military base were off limits to US Servicemen and diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States were cut-off by President Eisenhower in 1961. On Februrary 6th, 1964, Fidel Castro cut off the water supply to the base, so for over 40 years, the base has been self sufficient with its own water plants and electricity stations.
Fidel Castro considers the lease by the United States to be illegal, and he has only cashed in 1 rent cheque in his entire time in power. The other rent cheques have been piling up without being cashed. The fact that he cashed the first rent cheque has been used by the United States in the courts as evidence that the Cuban government ratified the lease.
The base has served many purposes for the US Army in the past, including being used as a camp for Haiti refugees, and it was also used briefly to intercept Chinese migrants being smuggled into the United States.
Most recently, the camp has been used as a terrorist prisoner camp. This is highly contested worldwide, as there are hundreds of prisoners being detained in unsanitary conditions, without access to legal advice. An article in the Wall Street Journal reported that as of November 7, 2005, 358 of the 505 detainees had had Administrative Review Board hearings. Of these, only 3 percent had been released, 20 percent were to be transfered in, 37 percent were to be further detained indefinitely, and there was no decision yet on 40 percent. Amnesty International considers Guantanamo Bay to be a human rights scandal with evidence of torture and widespread cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners claiming it violates international law.
In 1986, the first McDonalds restaurant on Cuban soil was opened in Guantanamo Bay. It is not accessible by Cubans.