A New Treaty Between Cuba and the U.S. for the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 3 August 2015 — In redundant speeches, more rhetorical than combative, the Cuban Government has requested — among other things — the return of the territory where the Guantánamo Naval Base is located.

But given present circumstances, since Washington and Havana have decided to stop being best enemies to become respectful neighbors, it’s worth asking if the U.S., by delivering that territory, would lose control of the zone and its regional influence.

History tells us the Naval Base was established in 1898, when the military occupation of the U.S. on the Island took place, after defeating Spain in what many of us know as the Hispano-Cuban-American War. Later, the signature of the first President of the Republic of Cuba, Tomás Estrada Palma, on February 23, 1903, granted that unusual and controversial condition of perpetual lease, which also was ratified with the rubric of the Treaty of Relations on May 29, 1934.

It originated as a historic anomaly and, today, now that without Tylenol even the Cold War caught a cold, the Base appears to lose its military meaning. Some need an unequaled gesture of neighborly coexistence: that the Pentagon return to MINFAR the 117.6 sq. km. of territory in dispute and, in passing, savor the opportunity to close the center of detention and its so-questionable reputation.

Seen like that it sounds convincing. However, everything is not as it seems. The moon was smooth and perfect until Galileo appeared. He modified the telescope and let us see a lunar surface chock-full of dark craters and unsuspected irregularities.

Yes, without doubt, for Cuba to recover this space, which geographically forms part of its “Sovereign State,” could mean a political victory that would convert Guantánamo into one of the most attractive national destinations for researchers, film crews and tourists. But the Cuban Government won’t stop at that. Lacking naval resources and potential cash to exploit the installations of a base that includes two airfields, docks, jetties and moorings with the capacity for different types of cargo ships, it would have to solicit bids, and that would bring a pack of wolves.

Sufficient indications reveal the marked interest of Russia and China for grabbing the Caribbean, and experts on terrorism agree on the authentic danger of certain groups — radical Islamists — known for spreading panic in the Middle East, who look for means and ways to extend their regional religiosity into this zone in order to bring it closer to the U.S.

For that reason and much more, I believe that today, strategically speaking, the Guantánamo Naval Base has special importance and should be immovable. But circumstances have changed, and the conditions of the contract could also change. Since July 20 and the reopening of embassies, there is no political, diplomatic or military argument to impede Washington and Havana from conversing and remaking a treaty, beneficial for both (and  for the region), through which the U.S. delivers the occupied territory, and Cuba, with new contractual criteria, would permit the North American soldiers to continue operating the base.

Which is a long way of saying that, by reaching an agreement, the U.S. could augment its influence in the region; Russia, the terrorists and China would remain outside this hemisphere. The internal Cuban emigration would change direction if Guantánamo, as a province, increased its GDP with the rent that today it neither charges nor enjoys, and the up-to-today forgotten municipalities of Caimanera and Boquerón would immediately be converted into the aurora borealis of Cuban entrepreneurship.

I like that idea; I don’t know about you.

Translated by Regina Anavy