Why the U.S. has a base at Guantanamo Bay

"Spanish Misrule" by Louis Dalrymple, 1890s, Puck magazine.
"Spanish Misrule" by Louis Dalrymple, 1890s, Puck magazine.
President Barack Obama on Feb. 23 released a plan to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility in Cuba.

     The plan outlines 13 potential facilities where detainees may be transferred. There are 91 detainees left at Guantanamo, and 35 of those are eligible for transfers to other countries. Moving 30 to 60 inmates to the U.S. would save $140 million to $180 million annually, the report said. The cost of operating the facility in 2015 was $445 million.
     For more than a century, the U.S. Navy has had a base in Cuba -- and it has been controversial. In 2002, Guantanamo Bay became the destination for detainees captured in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
     Obama signed an executive order in 2009 in an attempt to close the detention facility. But doing so proved politically difficult.
     Beyond the issue of whether the detention facility should close is the simple question of whether the U.S. military should remain on Cuban soil. In July 2015, as he stood beside U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez called for “the return of the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo.”
     So how did the U.S. come to have this foothold on Cuba? Here are the basics:

    Cuban revolutionaries fought for independence from Spanish colonial rule. The conflict got the attention of Americans because “of the economic and political instability that it produced in a region within such close geographical proximity to the United States,” recounts the U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian.   

     Feb. 15, 1898:
    The USS Maine, sent to Cuba to protect American interests, exploded, killing 266 men. One month later, the U.S. Navy concluded that a mine had been detonated under the ship, according to the Library of Congress, although the actual cause of the explosion remains a matter of dispute.

    April 20, 1898:
    Congress adopted a joint resolution, as recounted by the State Department, that  “acknowledged Cuban independence, demanded that the Spanish government give up control of the island, foreswore any intention on the part of the United States to annex Cuba, and authorized [President William] McKinley to use whatever military measures he deemed necessary to guarantee Cuba’s independence.”

     June 10, 1898:
   U.S. Marines landed at Guantanamo Bay.

     July 26, 1898:
    A French diplomat acting at the request of the Spanish government approached the McKinley administration to discuss peace terms, according to the State Department’s website. A cease-fire was signed in August.

    The Platt Amendment, the work of Sen. Orville Platt, R-Conn.,was introduced in February 1901. It outlined conditions that the Cuban government agreed to before withdrawal of U.S. troops. For example, it prohibited the Cuban government from entering into a treaty that would “compromise Cuban independence or allow foreign powers to use the island for military purposes,” according to the State Department website. The provisions also called for Cuba to “agree to sell or lease territory for coaling and naval stations to the United States,” the website states.

    The U.S. leased 45 square miles of land and water at Guantanamo Bay for use as a fueling station, according to the U.S. Navy website. The text of the lease says the U.S. “agrees and covenants to pay to the Republic of Cuba the annual sum of two thousand dollars, in gold coin of the United States, as long as the former shall occupy and use said areas of land by virtue of said agreement.” It was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt.

    In May, “rising Cuban nationalism and widespread criticism of the Platt Amendment resulted in its repeal as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor policy toward Latin America,”  according to the National Archives. “The United States, however, retained its lease on Guantanamo Bay, where a naval base was established.”
    The lease was changed to $4,085. A requirement was added that terminating the lease "requires the consent of both the U.S. and Cuba governments or the U.S. abandonment of the base property," the Navy website says.



     Most Americans approve of Cuba connection

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