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Guantanamo, executioner in a foreign land

In international public opinion, Guantanamo is an inoperative base due to humanitarian matters connected with the prison. It also symbolises colonialism, reaffirms the distorted vision of Cuba as a backyard and it is the only country with which the United States has no diplomatic links.

Danay Galletti Hernandez


Authorities, top-level former soldiers, and American academics refer to the inoperative character of this installation with an area of 117.6 km² because the island does not pose a threat to national security and the Caribbean country has never orchestrated a plan against American territory.

This is what the historian, researcher and professor, Hassan Perez Casabona, thinks, for whom, in contrast, “the Cuban government in all the years of revolution have given proof, on innumerable occasions, of their will to cooperate on different issues, thus the existence of 23 agreements”.

Bilateral agreements persist, he says, despite former president Donald Trump’s abominations, such as the 243 measures applied against Cuba, 55 of these orders during the pandemic, and still in force in Joe Biden’s administration.

The country describes the presence of the base as unacceptable but does not put that forward as an obstacle to progress their talks with the United States, the country that today has more than 800 naval bases worldwide.

The dark capital of the prison

The process of restitution of relations which began on 17 December 2014, generated certain expectations, despite it being only a change in tone and instrument and not the strategic goals themselves, as former president Barack Obama expressed during his visit to Cuba in 2016.

Even in this scenario, it was clear that the subject of the naval base was not up for discussion; it only transpired at that stage that the closure of the prison, established in 2002 following the events of 11 September 2001, was included as a campaign promise and unfulfilled during his term in office.

“That military prison was part of the darkest episode in the history of the United States when the then-president, George W. Bush, said: no problem, in order to define the judiciary limbo and tortures applied to the prisoners arbitrarily taken to this place”, the academic said emphatically.

Perez Casabona, who spoked to Prensa Latina, states that the United States violated international acts to combat those physical and psychological punishments and harassment committed there which are comparable to the worst versions of the concentration camps during World War Two (1939-1945).

George Bush’s administration considered that, as the detainees were not in their geographical area, they lacked the protection granted by mechanisms, among others, the US constitution and, therefore, this status of “enemy combatant” deprived them of legal protection.

“In agreement with international public opinion,” he explains, “this site is inoperative, first of all, due to humanitarian issues connected to the prison and, from a military perspective, it symbolises a reference to colonialism and a distorted vision conceived of Cuba as a backyard”.

Is it possible to remove the naval base?

In theory, yes, but does the political will of the United States government exist? Perez Casabona said that since 1903, the date the base was established, none of the 24 presidents who passed through the White House have included unconditionally returning this territory to Cuba within their policies.

Re-establishing relations had, as a determinant, the removal of the island from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a decision imposed by former president Ronald Reagan in 1982, and advancing agreements to cease the economic, commercial and financial blockade.

“Trump put us on this unilateral list again and Biden’s latest declarations, after the social destabilisation acts of 11 and 12 July, indicate a lack of will in the fulfilment of their promises to the electorate with regard to a possible closeness to Havana”, he said.

What does it represent for the United States?

Since their constitution at the beginning of the 20th century, American troops present on the base until 1959 turned the neighbouring areas of Caimanera and Boqueron into spaces for prostitution, drugs, contraband, vices and forbidden games. The United States’ adventures in Caribbean and Latin American nations relied on the complicity of the troops settled in Guantanamo, for example for the invasion of Nicaragua in 1912; the Dominican Republic at several times, the first in 1916; Panama in 1989 and Haiti in 1994.

For historian and academic Elier Ramirez, the base was always a point of tension and, for example, in Lyndon B Johnson’s (1963-1969) presidency, it constituted a critical point with the murder of Cuban soldiers and the confiscation of funds accumulated in the withdrawal of hundreds of workers.

Since 1959, Cuba has condemned shots against members of the Border Brigade, created in 1961 – up to 1989 they counted 780 rifle bullets coming from the base -, provocations, verbal offences and the confirmation of stages to evidence a possible intervention. (PL)

(Translated by Donna Davison. Email: – Photos: Pixabay

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