Ever wondered why theres a US base in Cuba? Want to know the history behind Guantanamo Bay? read on…
Guantanamo Bay is located on the far south east corner of the Island of Cuba. Guantanamo Bay is located in the Guantanamo province of Cuba, which among other things, is home to one of Cuba’s national parks which is a prime bird watching location, as well as various scuba diving sites off the South coast of Cuba. The USA owns only one part of Guantanamo Bay where it has built a permanent naval base known as Camp Delta. The total area of Cuban land upon which the USA has built their naval base is 116 km squared.
How did the USA get Guantanamo Bay Cuba?
The history of US control of Guantanamo Bay Cuba goes back to the beginning of the 20th century and the struggle for Cuban independence. In 1903 the US Platt amendment imposed on the nascent government of Cuba that Guantanamo Bay be seceded to the US government as a pre condition to Cuban independence. Ever since 1903, Guantanamo Bay has remained under US military control and is considered to be US territory upon which Cubans cannot enter. In 1934, US president Theodore Roosevelt changed the terms of ownership of Guantanamo Bay from outright US ownership to a 99 year lease agreement between the Cuban and US Governments. This movement was intended to placate Cuban nationalist sentiment which felt humiliated at having to give land to the USA. In reality this agreement made no difference to the status quo as under the terms of the lease agreement the acceptance of both parties was necessary to terminate the lease agreement.
Why does the USA want Guantanamo Bay Cuba?
The US Government originally saw Guantanamo Bay as a point of strategic value to its Navy in protecting the Panama Canal. Of course with advances in military technology and US hegemony in the Latin American region, the US government no longer needs Guantanamo Bay for military purposes. Guantanamo Bay today does more to serve political purposes in its long standing campaign against Cuba. Immediately after the Cuban revolution in 1959, Fidel Castro asked for the return of Guantanamo Bay which the US refused. The Cubans in turn responded by cutting off water and electricity supplies to the US naval base on Guantanamo Bay. Since that time, US military personnel stationed at Guantanamo Bay have been forbidden entry to Cuba and an unfriendly stand off has occurred in the area ever since.
Guantanamo Bay Cuba today
Far from being a point of strategic naval importance, the US government have found alternative uses for the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay in recent years. During a period of mass exodus of Cuban citizens to Florida in the 1990’s, the government decided to use Guantanamo Bay as a holding point for Cubans who were found at sea by the US coastguard. Many of these Cubans were later voluntarily repatriated to Cuba. Most recently, the US government have been able to use Guantanamo Bay as a detention centre for detainees in its war on terror, which enables it to employ practices that would be deemed illegal if they took place on the US mainland.
Visiting Guantanamo Bay Cuba
The US naval base at Guantanamo Bay is strictly off limits to Cuban civilians and foreign tourists. It is possible, however, to obtain a great view of the US naval base at Guantanamo from nearby hillsides at Mirandar de Maknes.