Cuban American Alliance
Why not return Guantanamo base to Cuba?
La Alborada - May 1
President Obama has reacted to the continuing spectacle of force-feeding captives who are on a hunger strike at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay. He wants to close the prison built within the base. The prisoners, afforded minimal due process in military courts, are looking at spending their lives in concrete cells, even those who have not been charged after years of detention and who have been "cleared" for release for lack of evidence to justify their being there.
Every one of them has been tortured, because the application of torture was official standard procedure when they were captured. Congress has refused to allow them to leave, and Obama will find continuing resistance from Representatives who, unbelievably, maintain that the US government is the world's leader in the defense of human rights.
One possible reason for opposing the release of at least some of the prisoners is that if they go free they may let the world know the details of the torture to which they were subjected in blatant violation of the Convention Against Torture, which the US has signed and ratified.
After all, none of the high officials responsible for that torture has been charged, far less tried for crimes against humanity. They're still around, making money by writing memoirs and traveling on the lecture circuit, and they have influence.
The President points out that the prison contradicts US interests and should be closed altogether because it creates negative reactions worldwide. He's right about that.
Neither he nor the Congress, however, contemplates giving up the base that now houses the prison. It is a colonial enclave imposed by threat of force at the very beginning of the republic that the US claimed to have liberated. It is covered by the fig leaf of a lease "agreement" that grants the territory to the US for as long as it decides to stay.
The base was seen originally as a coaling station for US ships, at a time before military aircraft existed and when gunboat diplomacy was the state-of-the-art means of imposing terms on other peoples. It targeted not just Cuba, but Jamaica, Hispaniola and the other Caribbean islands, Central America, and the then-anticipated Panama Canal. The colonial base was key to controlling other potential colonies.
These days, the naval base is not necessary for its original purposes. The US no longer seeks old-style colonies in its declared backyard, except for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Like the prison within it, the base itself creates negative reactions abroad, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The US took over Guantanamo Bay in 1898, and legitimated its occupation with the Cuba-US Treaty of 1903. The lease was revised in 1934, shortly after FDR declared the Good Neighbor Policy towards Latin America --a policy of non-intervention in the region-- in 1933.
Towards the end of that year, dictator Gerardo Machado, facing a general revolt, fled the country. A new interim government was declared. Soon afterwards, Sergeant Fulgencio Batista, having taken control of the Army, met with US ambassador Sumner Wells, and two days later some 30 US warships appeared off Cuba's coasts. The US and Batista conspired against the new government, which the US refused to recognize, and the new government was overthrown in short order.
This took place at the very beginning of the non-interventionist Good Neighbor Policy. The US then agreed to accept the revocation of provisions in the Cuban constitution that permitted the US to intervene legally at will, but it kept the naval base at Guantanamo.
It's still controlled by the Good Neighbor.