[Marxism] Re: How the US Stole Guantanamo Bay from Cuba

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Sun Mar 5 13:48:58 MST 2006

> Cuba has surprisingly come under fire from some quarters for  
> allowing such behaviour on its land. But Cuba has no power over  
> this area of its own soil, as for the last hundred years Guantanamo  
> Bay has been occupied by the United States and is separated from  
> the rest of Cuba by one of the world's deadliest minefields.
> . . .
> As if all this were not bad enough, even the terms of the  
> Guantanamo Bay lease have been broken by the United States. The  
> 1903 treaty permits a "base for naval and coaling purposes" and  
> goes on to say that any commercial use would be illegal. But it is  
> well-known that Guantanamo Bay now contains several commercial  
> concessions, including a bowling alley and a fast-food chain.
> Other uses have included an internment camp for Haitian refugees in  
> the early 1990s,* a logistical base for the US’s regime-changing  
> invasions of Grenada and Panama, numerous acts of provocation  
> against Cuba, as well as its present disgraceful as a prison camp -  
> all of which break the terms of the lease.
> How the US stole Guantanamo Bay from Cuba: a cautionary tale
> By Kaleem Omar

Although the Cuban government is in an impossible military position  
regarding any physical action against the U.S. government's illegal  
position of Guantanamo, in my opinion, some of its statements have  
unfortunately and unnecessarily undermined its moral if not its legal  

The original treaty was blatantly illegal and in violation of all  
standards for international treaties. However, putting that aside,  
the U.S. has materially violated all of terms of that treaty and  
thereby rendered it null and void. This has not been aggressively  
argued by Cuba. Its "equable" language below and elsewhere seems to  
rely totally on the illegality of the original treaty, perhaps  
feeling that it would undermine that position if it emphasized the  
present illegalities.

The language of the following passage doesn't even make the point  
that the treaty has been materially breached. It also makes it more  
difficult for defenders of Cuba and opponents of the Iraq war to  
raise the issue. Furthermore, there is no reason for Cuba to have  
used such soft language regarding its cooperation in making sure that  
the illegally captured prisoners would be well treated. This implies  
a mutuality which not only undermines the present breach, but also  
undermines the original illegal seizure.

Here is the language of the original illegal treaty. The treaty of  
1934 incorporates the language of the 1903 treaty as follows: "the  
stipulations of [the 1903] agreement with regard to the naval station  
of Guantánamo shall continue in effect."

The 1903 treaty reads: "The grant of the foregoing Article shall  
include the right to use and occupy the waters adjacent to said areas  
of land and water, and to improve and deepen the entrances thereto  
and the anchorages therein, and generally to do any and all things  
necessary to fit the premises for use as coaling or naval stations  
only, AND FOR NO OTHER PURPOSE." [My emphasis]

Argued more fully at http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/052305B.shtml

The statement of the Cuban government follows:

Brian Shannon

At the same time, that is also the place where it would be easier for  
people interested in bringing about conflicts between the two  
countries to undertake plans aimed at attracting aggressive actions  
against our people in their heroic political, economic and  
ideological resistance vis-à-vis the enormous power of the United  

Our country has been particularly thoughtful about applying there a  
specially cautious and equable policy.

It should be pointed out, however, that even if for decades there was  
quite a lot of tension in the area of the Guantanamo naval base,  
there have been changes there in the past few years and now an  
atmosphere of mutual respect prevails.

In 1994, when a large number of rafters sent by the U.S. authorities  
concentrated there, the situation created determined the need to  
solve the numerous problems that had been accumulating, which  
endangered the lives of many. Some people interested in migrating to  
the United States from our own territory attempted to do so through  
the base, while not few tried to leave the American military base and  
return to our country crossing mined fields. Accidents occurred and  
often our soldiers had to take major risks to rescue people from the  
mined fields. Such actions also required information and cooperation  
from the personnel stationed at the base. Additionally, there were  
the heavy rains and swollen rivers in the area that swept away mines  
and blurred their markings which gave rise to similarly hazardous  
situations for all.

Such circumstances contributed to an improvement of the atmosphere  
there and to authorized, albeit minimal, contacts that were  
indispensable to those in positions of responsibility on both sides  
of the base area. Consequently, what prevails there today is not what  
could be described as an atmosphere of hostility or war.

Two new international developments have had a bearing on the  
situation in that base: the war in Kosovo in 1999 and the war in  
Afghanistan after the terrorist acts of September 11. In both cases,  
the United States has played a protagonist role.

In the former case there was a large number of Kosovars refugees. The  
Government of the United States of America, in accordance with  
previous commitments, made the decision to use the military base to  
shelter a number of them. Such decisions are always made  
unilaterally; our views are never previously asked; and, we were  
never even informed. However, on that occasion, for the first time,  
we were informed of the decision and the rational behind it. We then  
gave a constructive response.

Although we were opposed to that war, there was no reason for us to  
oppose the assistance that the Kosovars refugees might need. We even  
offered our country’s cooperation, if necessary, to provide medical  
care or any other services that might be required. Ultimately, the  
refugees were not sent to Guantanamo naval base.

This time the decision has been adopted to bring prisoners of the war  
in Afghanistan to that military base. The same as in the past, we  
were not consulted but there was a gesture in previously providing  
ample and detailed information on the steps that would be taken to  
accommodate the prisoners there and ensure that the security of our  
people is not in anyway jeopardized. The latest details were given to  
the Cuban authorities last Monday, January 7, 2002.

The information supplied indicates that there will be a strong  
reinforcement of the military personnel at the base in charge of  
taking the necessary measures for the accomplishment of their  

Despite the fact that we hold different positions as to the most  
efficient way to eradicate terrorism, the difference between Cuba and  
the United States lies in the method and not in the need to put an  
end to that scourge,  --so familiar to our people that have been its  
victim for more than 40 years-- the same that last September 11 dealt  
a repulsive and brutal blow to the American people.

Although the transfer of foreign war prisoners by the United States  
government to one of its military facilities --located in a portion  
of our land over which we have no jurisdiction, as we have been  
deprived of it--  does not abide by the provisions that regulated its  
inception, we shall not set any obstacles to the development of the  

Having been apprised of the operation and aware of the fact that it  
demands a considerable movement of personnel and means of air  
transportation, the Cuban authorities will keep in contact with the  
personnel at the American naval base to adopt such measures as may be  
deemed convenient to avoid the risk of accidents that might put in  
jeopardy the lives of the personnel thus transported.

Despite the major increase of military personnel that such an  
operation will require, we feel that it does not pose any threat to  
the national security of our country. Therefore, we will not increase  
the Cuban personnel or the military means stationed in the area of  
that facility. Our highly disciplined and qualified personnel suffice  
to ensure the safety of the population in the region in case of any  
danger that might originate with the transfer of the foreign  
prisoners to that base.

Cuba will make every effort to preserve the atmosphere of détente and  
mutual respect that has prevailed in that area in the past few years.

The government of Cuba appreciates the previous information supplied  
and has taken note with satisfaction of the public statements made by  
the U.S. authorities in the sense that the prisoners will be accorded  
an adequate and humane treatment that may be monitored by the  
International Red Cross.

Although the exact number of prisoners that will be concentrated  
there is not yet known, just like on the occasion of the project to  
transfer to that place thousands of Kosovars refugees, we are willing  
to cooperate with the medical services required as well as with  
sanitation programs in the surrounding areas under our control to  
keep them clean of vectors and pests. Likewise, we are willing to  
cooperate in any other useful, constructive and humane way that may  



* An article on the use of Cuba for both Haitian refugees and Cubans  
is at http://makeashorterlink.com/?X1BC26EBC


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