US uses Cuba base to put pressure on Haiti: Pushpinder Khaneka tells why Guantanamo - America's unique foothold on Castro's island - is the world's best military bargain
Monday 01 August 1994
The US has already reinforced troops at Guantanamo to put pressure on Haiti's military leaders, and the base is the hub for the US-led embargo against Haiti. Once again the base is playing its role in helping the US hold sway in what it considers its backyard.
Guantanamo is unique. It is the oldest US base on foreign soil; it is the only one in a Communist country; it is far and away the world's best military bargain - President Castro's government has not cashed any of the dollars 4,000 annual rental cheques since 1960, the year after it came to power - and it is maintained in the teeth of the host country's opposition. Mr Castro has called the base 'a dagger thrust in the heart of Cuba' but has said Cuba will not attempt to retake it.
The base has come in handy as a tool of US foreign policy, for military intervention in the Caribbean and Central America - such as the US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965. More recently, however, it has been regarded as largely redundant and a burden on the military budget. Some 7,000 people, including troops and civilians, live on the base's 45 square miles, about a third of which are in the bay's waters. On its land 'border' with Cuba runs a 17-mile, 8ft high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. Next to the fence lies one of the world's biggest active minefields - more than 700 deadly acres, mostly laid down during the 1962 Missile Crisis.
After the Spanish-American war in 1898, during which the Cubans won independence from Spain, the Havana rebels found their erstwhile allies reluctant to leave. The US finally pulled out in 1901 but, under the Platt Amendment signed that year, it reserved the right to intervene in the island's affairs to 'maintain the independence of Cuba and protect the people'. Not content with having the right to save the Cubans from themselves, the US also leased, in perpetuity, land around Guantanamo Bay - initially as a coaling station.
Over the years, a number of Cuban 'strongmen' found it politically convenient to be closely allied to the US. Indeed, US support kept many of them in power. But since the 1959 revolution that brought President Castro to power, Havana has regarded the US occupation of the base as illegal, claiming the lease was invalid beause it was imposed on Cuba.
It has taken its case to the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement - to no avail.
Despite the end of the Cold War, the US is in no hurry to give up its foothold in Cuba. The Defense Department's recent round of closures of US bases since the fall of the Berlin Wall has not included the Cuban facility.
During all Havana's years of close links with the Soviet Union, and US denunciation of Soviet military might in Cuba, there has only been one foreign base on the island - and that, ironically, has belonged to the US.
And why are 'southern' ways of speaking spreading north?
Ten best places to live in the UK: Solihull comes top
Paul Walker autopsy: Results reveal Fast and Furious star's cause of death
Mysterious glowing ‘alien-like creature’ spotted in waters of Bristol Harbour. A jellyfish - or something fishy?
From 'terrorist' to tea with the Queen
Nelson Mandela death: his life in pictures
- 1 Cameron's freebie to apartheid South Africa
- 2 Nelson Mandela life story: An unconquerable spirit
- 3 Is this the scariest advert ever? Japanese tyre commercial comes with its own disclaimer and health warning
- 4 A forgotten episode in Russian history leaves links with the Philippines
- 5 Video: Students 'punched and dragged to the ground by their hair' as police break up demonstration
£29999 - £39999 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: A fantastic oppor...
£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: VB.NET SQL CSS Develop...
£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Server Side De...
£21000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: Graduate QA/Graduate T...