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

THE UN Security Council vote clearing the way for a US-led invasion of Haiti is bound to lead to an increase in US military activity in the Caribbean. The nearest US territory, the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba - a mere 90 miles (145km) from Port-au-Prince - is likely to play an important role in any military action.

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.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?