Guantánamo is and
will continue to be Cuban territory
Manuel E. Yepe
WITH justified anger, millions of
people throughout the world are demanding the
closure of the detention center operated by the
United States on the military base it illegally
occupies in Cuban territory. But this demand
overlooks another equally reprehensible crime
committed by the same offender.
Surprisingly, some days ago Jonathan
M. Hansen, a lecturer at Harvard University, wrote
an article entitled "Give Guantánamo back to Cuba"
which made it onto the pages of The New York
Times, in which he denounces "our continued
occupation of Guantánamo itself" and states, "It is
past time to return this imperialist enclave to
The illegality of maintaining this
military base on Cuban territory has been silenced
for over a century by a Western mass media ruled by
Washington's propaganda interests, while Cuba has
always taken care to make its claims through
diplomatic channels in order to avoid facilitating
any pretext for a military aggression on the part of
the United States, arguing Cuban action regarding
its unwanted presence.
Professor J. M. Hansen recalls in
his article that "from the moment the United States
government forced Cuba to lease the Guantánamo Bay
naval base to us, in June 1901, the American
presence there …has served to remind the world of
America’s long history of interventionist militarism."
"Few gestures would have as salutary
an effect on the stultifying impasse in American-Cuban
relations as handing over this coveted piece of land,"
"The circumstances by which the
United States came to occupy Guantánamo are as
troubling as its past decade of activity there," he
Hansen recalls that in April 1898,
U.S. forces intervened in the Cuban struggle for
independence when it was all but won, thus
transforming the Cuban War of Independence into what
Americans still call the Spanish-American War.
American officials occupied the island for three
years, then excluded the Cuban Independent Army from
armistice negotiations and denied the country a seat
at the Paris peace conference.
Although U.S. statements made at
that time included the assurance that it would not
seek to "intervene in the sovereignty, jurisdiction,
or control" of Cuba, shortly after the war strategic
imperatives took precedence over respect for Cuban
independence, the Times article reads.
General Leonard Wood, appointed
military governor of Cuba by President William
McKinley, introduced provisions that became known as
the Platt Amendment, which were highly repudiated
and included one guaranteeing the United States the
right to intervene at will in Cuba’s affairs, and
another providing for the sale or perpetual lease of
naval stations in Cuba.
Addressing delegates to the Cuban
Constitutional Convention, General Wood informed
them that the only alternative to the amendment was
continued occupation. The Cubans got the message,
Over the next two decades, on
repeated occasions the U.S. dispatched Marines "to
protect its interests in Cuba," and approximately
44,000 Americans were established in Cuba to promote
capital investment there.
Hansen compares the situation in
Cuba with that of the United States had the French
decided to remain in the country at the end of the
American Revolution, refusing to allow Washington
and his army to be present at the truce in Yorktown.
"Imagine that they had denied the Continental
Congress a seat at the Treaty of Paris, occupied New
York Harbor, dispatched troops to quash Shays’ and
other rebellions and then immigrated to the colonies
in droves, snatching up the most valuable land."
Hansen maintains that the U.S.
occupied Guantánamo in a similar context. It is a
history excluded from U.S. text books and neglected
in the discussions about terrorism, international
law and the reach of executive power. But it is a
history known in Cuba and throughout Latin America,
which explains why Guantánamo remains a glaring
symbol of hypocrisy around the world, even without
referring to the last decade, Hansen reiterates.
If President Obama were to
acknowledge this history and initiate the process of
returning Guantánamo to Cuba, Hansen states, "he
could begin to put the mistakes of the last 10 years
behind us, not to mention fulfill a campaign pledge.
"The act would rectify an age-old
grievance and lay the groundwork for new relations
with Cuba and other countries in the Western
Hemisphere and around the globe," Hansen affirms in
his recent Times article.