American Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba

American Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba

After the defeat of Spain in the American-Spanish war 1898, Cuba came under the influence of the United States. In fact, the Spanish colonialists were replaced by the Americans.

American soldiers after the Spaniards surrendered Santiago de Cuba, 1898 year

In 1903, an agreement was signed between the United States and the then Cuban authorities to lease the territory adjacent to Guantanamo Bay with an area of ​​118 square kilometers, which corresponds to a rectangle of size 9 × 13 km.

The United States has the right to use 37 square kilometers of the water surface of Guantanamo Bay. Earlier this area was located Spanish naval base.

Guantanamo Bay is the largest bay on the southeastern tip of Cuba. The bay is surrounded by steep mountains.

US Navy ships parked in Guantanamo Bay

The lease term was specified in the contract by the wording “for the period of time that is required”. To implement this, a special amendment was included as an annex to the Constitution of Cuba. In this contract, in particular, a fixed rental price was set - “2000 pesos in gold currency of the United States” per year. The contract itself is "indefinite" and may be terminated "only by mutual consent of the parties, or in case of violation of the terms of the lease."

Soon the construction of the American naval base began on this rented Cuban territory.

The current status of the base is governed by the contract of 1934 of the year, concluded after a series of coup d'états in Cuba at the beginning of the 1930s. As a result, the fee for using the database was raised to $ 3400. These funds were paid to Cuba until, as a result of the popular uprising, the pro-American dictator regime Fulgencio Batista was not overthrown. It should be noted that for the similar bases in Taiwan and the Philippines in 1950-1970-s, the United States paid respectively 120 and 140 million dollars per year.

After the victory of 1959, the Cuban state refused from 1961 to accept a ridiculous rent from the USA, demanding its liquidation or, otherwise, an increase in rent by 50. In the same year, Havana unilaterally withdrew from the US-Cuban agreement 1934 of the year, confirming the terms of the lease. But the United States refused to negotiate with Havana on these issues, increasing its military presence at Guantanamo.

Aggravated US-Cuban relations almost led the world to a nuclear war. After the resolution of the Caribbean crisis (1962), the United States promised Moscow that no attacks of Castro from the Cuban émigrés would be carried out from the territory of the Guantanamo naval base. This promise is still being fulfilled by Washington.

In response, Moscow promised to keep Havana from acting against Guantanamo, which was also possible. Therefore, even during the Soviet period, the base and the area it occupied were not included by the Soviet delegations into the United Nations, in contrast to the Chinese, in the list of colonial and dependent territories.

Not one Soviet statesman in his speeches, either in Cuba or in the USSR, never mentioned in a single word about this base and the illegality of its existence. And to the Cuban leaders who visited the USSR, representatives of the Kremlin “advised” as little as possible, and it is better not to mention it at all in public speeches.

In the 70s, Albanian, North Korean, and Chinese representatives at the UN sharply criticized Moscow for silencing the issue of the illegal American base at Guantanamo. This criticism was sometimes so harsh that representatives of the USSR at the UN often had to leave the meeting room in protest.

Not least, the position of the USSR on this issue influenced the fact that the American base is still illegally staying in Cuba. For many interrelated reasons, the United States not only continues to occupy part of Cuban sovereign territory, but also uses it to control a very large region.

However, in the past, the US military regularly conducted exercises on emergency evacuation of personnel and equipment from Guantanamo. At the same time, Cuban units during the Cold War years conducted regular military maneuvers in the areas adjacent to the base.

There is no doubt that, if necessary, Cubans would quickly eliminate the American base, another question is that this would inevitably lead to unpredictable consequences. Understanding this, both sides, despite their mutual hostility, refrained from rash actions. In many ways, the deterrent factor for the Americans was the presence on the “Island of Freedom” of the Soviet military contingent. Aggression against Cuba would automatically mean armed escalation with the USSR.

The Cuban government declares the unlawful location of the American base, referring to article 52 of the Vienna Convention 1969 of the year under which unequal international treaties (concluded under the threat of the use of military force) are considered invalid. However, the US authorities refer to article 4 of the same convention, according to which the convention does not apply to previously concluded agreements.

During the Soviet-American confrontation, the naval base at Guantanamo in Cuba was of key importance in the US naval strategy in the region and served as the cornerstone of the American military operation in the area of ​​responsibility of the 4 fleet. The naval base Guantanamo played a significant role in the operations of the US Navy in Grenada, Panama and Haiti.

In fact, the United States exercises its state sovereignty in this territory unconditionally and in full, and Cuba’s jurisdiction is purely formal, as recognized by the US Supreme Court. “From a practical point of view, Guantanamo is not abroad,” the judges decided.

Guantanamo Navy Base is the largest US military base in foreign territory in its area. It has two runways capable of receiving all types of aircraft.

Google Earth snapshot: American planes at Guantanamo airfield

On land there are over 1500 service and residential facilities, a mechanized port, ship repair shops, there is a floating dock, warehouses of food, ammunition, fuel and lubricants.

Google Earth snapshot: Guantanamo naval port facilities

Here in comfortable conditions can accommodate up to 10 thousands of people of military personnel. The base is regularly visited by major US Navy warships.

Amphibious San Antonio class US Navy docking ships at Guantanamo Naval Base

To ensure the normal living conditions of the permanent contingent, the base has a developed civil infrastructure, including entertainment clubs, tennis courts, baseball fields, swimming pools, beaches, a hippodrome, fishing boats and yachts.

McDonald's on the territory of the Guantanamo base

Guantanamo gained scandalous fame in 2002, when a prison was established on its territory for "suspects of terrorist activities against the US and allies." Prior to this, there was a filtration camp for refugees from Cuba and Haiti at this site base.

In January 2002, the first 20 people accused of "participating in hostilities on the side of Islamic extremists" - the Taliban - were brought there from Afghanistan.

In the four years since the arrival of the first prisoners, more than 750 “suspects” captured by US forces during operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have passed through the Guantanamo prison. All of them, according to the US military, participated in operations on the side of Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Subsequently, about a third of them were released, transferred to other prisons or extradited to the countries of which they are citizens (among them were seven citizens of Russia). All Russians were detained in the fall of 2001, during a combat operation against the Taliban. In February 2004, seven prisoners were extradited to Russia. Six of them were subsequently sentenced to charges of various crimes. Another one, Ruslan Odizhev, was killed in Nalchik in 2007.

From 2002, the prison camp has become a full-time penitentiary institution, through which 779 people from 42 countries between the ages of 15 and 62 have passed. Currently, Guantanamo is being held in custody by about 160 people.

In June 2013, the US administration sent to Congress a list of the most dangerous prisoners in the prison. According to the Miami Herald newspaper, “permanent prisoners who are too dangerous to be transferred to other prisons or countries but cannot be judged due to lack of evidence” were originally 48 people. Two of them have already died: one committed suicide, the second died as a result of a heart attack. Of the remaining 26 are citizens of Yemen, 10 - of Afghanistan, 3 - of Saudi Arabia, 2 - of Kuwait and Libya, another one - of Kenya, Morocco and Somalia.

Since the territory of the base is not included in any of the American judicial districts, the persons contained there are outside the zone of American jurisdiction. In accordance with the US President George W. Bush’s decree of November 2001, “On the legal status of prisoners captured in Afghanistan,” they are considered not “arrested” and not “prisoners of war” subject to certain norms of international law, but “detainees” who are not officially Charged.

In practice, this means that they can be held in prison indefinitely. Many prisoners claimed that they were subjected to such prohibited methods of inquiry as sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, loud music, and drowning imitations. According to human rights defenders, the detention of prisoners in such conditions is a violation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment adopted in 1984.

On the second day after taking office on January 21 2009, fulfilling campaign promises, US President Barack Obama signed an order to disband the prison. However, the prison is still not closed. Such an approach by the American authorities to international norms and their favorite “human rights” once again demonstrates the US commitment to “double standards”.

Based on:
Satellite images courtesy of Google Earth.
Sergey Linnik
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