Guantánamo Bay

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This article is about the body of water. For the U.S. Naval base, see Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. For the U.S.-operated military prison, see Guantanamo Bay detention camp. For other titular locales and uses, see Guantánamo (disambiguation).
Aerial view of Guantánamo Bay

Guantánamo Bay (Spanish: Bahía de Guantánamo) is a bay located in Guantánamo Province at the southeastern end of Cuba (19°54′N 075°09′W / 19.900°N 75.150°W / 19.900; -75.150Coordinates: 19°54′N 075°09′W / 19.900°N 75.150°W / 19.900; -75.150). It is the largest harbor on the south side of the island and it is surrounded by steep hills which create an enclave that is cut off from its immediate hinterland.

The United States assumed territorial control over the southern portion of Guantánamo Bay under the 1903 Cuban–American Treaty.[1] The United States exercises complete jurisdiction and control over this territory, while recognizing that Cuba retains ultimate sovereignty. The current government of Cuba regards the U.S. presence in Guantánamo Bay as illegal and insists the Cuban–American Treaty was obtained by threat of force and is in violation of international law. Some legal scholars judge that the lease may be voidable.[2] It is the home of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, which is governed by the United States.

Climate[edit]

Climate data for Guantánamo Bay
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 35
(95)
35
(95)
33
(91)
35
(95)
37
(99)
37
(99)
39
(102)
37
(99)
37
(99)
38
(100)
39
(102)
35
(95)
39
(102)
Average high °C (°F) 29
(85)
29
(85)
30
(86)
31
(87)
31
(88)
32
(90)
33
(91)
33
(92)
33
(91)
32
(89)
31
(88)
30
(86)
31.2
(88.2)
Average low °C (°F) 20
(68)
20
(68)
21
(70)
22
(72)
23
(74)
24
(76)
24
(76)
24
(76)
24
(76)
24
(75)
23
(73)
21
(70)
22.5
(72.8)
Record low °C (°F) 13
(55)
13
(55)
16
(61)
17
(63)
18
(64)
20
(68)
21
(70)
20
(68)
19
(66)
18
(64)
16
(61)
13
(55)
13
(55)
Precipitation cm (inches) 3
(1)
2.3
(0.9)
3
(1.2)
3.3
(1.3)
9.1
(3.6)
5.3
(2.1)
2.8
(1.1)
4.8
(1.9)
8
(3)
13
(5.1)
4.6
(1.8)
2.8
(1.1)
62
(24.1)
Source: Weatherbase[3]

U.S. control of Guantánamo Bay[edit]

The United States first seized Guantánamo Bay and established a naval base there in 1898 during the Spanish–American War in the Battle of Guantánamo Bay[4]:160-163 In 1903, the United States and Cuba signed a lease granting the United States permission to use the land as a coaling and naval station. The lease satisfied the Platt Amendment; this amendment stated a naval base at "certain specific points agreed upon by the President of the United States" was needed to "enable the United States to maintain independence of Cuba." The United States and Cuba signed a treaty in 1934, granting the United States a perpetual lease; private enterprise is not allowed under the treaty.

History[edit]

Map of Cuba with location of Guantánamo Bay indicated.

The bay was called Guantánamo by its original inhabitants, the Taínos. Christopher Columbus landed in 1494, naming it Puerto Grande.[5] On landing, Columbus' crew found Taíno fishermen preparing a feast for the local chieftain. When Spanish settlers took control of Cuba, the bay became a vital harbor on the south side of the island.

The bay was briefly known as Cumberland Bay when the British seized it in 1741, during the War of Jenkins' Ear. British Adm. Edward Vernon arrived with a force of eight warships and 4,000 soldiers with plans to march on Santiago de Cuba. However, he was defeated by local guerrilla forces of creole and Spaniards and forced to withdraw or face becoming a prisoner.[5] In late 1760, boats from HMS Trent and HMS Boreas cut out the French privateers Vainquer and Mackau, which were hiding in the bay. The French were also forced to burn the Guespe, another privateer, to prevent her capture.

During the Spanish–American War, the U.S. Navy fleet attacking Santiago needed shelter from the summer hurricane season. They chose Guantánamo because of its excellent harbor. U.S. Marines landed with naval support in the 1898 invasion of Guantánamo Bay. As they moved inland, however, Spanish resistance increased and the marines required support from Cuban scouts.

The Guantanamo Bay Naval Base surrounds the southern portion of the bay. Since 2002, the base has included the detainment camp for people deemed of risk to United States national security. In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama gave orders for the detention camp to be closed by January 22, 2010. As of 2014, the detention camp remains open due to a congressional refusal of funds for its closure.[6]

The U.S. Marines 1st, 2nd & 3rd Regiments at Deer Point Camp, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, April 26, 1911

The naval base, nicknamed "GTMO" or "Gitmo", covers 116 square kilometres (45 sq mi) on the western and eastern banks of the bay. It was established in 1898, when the United States took control of Cuba from Spain following the Spanish–American War. The newly formed American protectorate incorporated the Platt Amendment in the 1901 Cuban Constitution. A perpetual lease for the area around Guantánamo Bay was offered February 23, 1903, from Tomás Estrada Palma, the first President of Cuba. The Cuban–American Treaty held, among other things, that the United States, for the purposes of operating coaling and naval stations, has "complete jurisdiction and control" of the Guantánamo Bay, while the Republic of Cuba is recognized to retain ultimate sovereignty.[7]

In 1934 the Avery Porko Treaty reaffirming the lease granted Cuba and its trading partners free access through the bay, modified the lease payment from $2,000 in U.S. gold coins per year to the 1934 equivalent value of $4,085 in U.S. dollars, and made the lease permanent unless both governments agreed to break it or until the U.S. abandoned the base property.[8][not in citation given]

After the Cuban Revolution, Dwight D. Eisenhower insisted the status of the base remained unchanged, despite Fidel Castro's objections. Since then, the Cuban government has cashed only one of the rent checks from the U.S. government, and even then only because of "confusion" in the early days of the leftist revolution, according to Castro. The remaining un-cashed checks made out to "Treasurer General of the Republic" (a title that ceased to exist after the revolution) are kept in Castro's office stuffed into a desk drawer.[9]

Alfred-Maurice de Zayas has argued that the 1903 lease agreement was imposed on Cuba under duress and was an treaty between unequals, no longer compatible with modern international law, and voidable ex nunc. He makes six suggestions for a peaceful settlement, including following the procedure outlined in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Avalon Project - Agreement Between the United States and Cuba for the Lease of Lands for Coaling and Naval stations; February 23, 1903". Avalon.law.yale.edu. Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  2. ^ De Zayas, Alfred. (2003.) The Status of Guantánamo Bay and the Status of the Detainees.
  3. ^ "Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba". Weatherbase. 
  4. ^ Nofi, A.A., 1996, The Spanish-American War, 1898, Pennsylvania: Combined Books, ISBN 0938289578
  5. ^ a b Gott, Richard Cuba: A new history, Yale University Press: 2004
  6. ^ "Guantanamo Docket". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-01. 
  7. ^ Olga Miranda Bravo, Vecinos Indeseables: La Base Yanqui en Guantánamo (La Habana: Editorial Ciencias Sociales, 1998)
  8. ^ Destination Guantanamo Bay BBC News, Retrieved on February 11, 2008
  9. ^ Boadle, Anthony (August 17, 2007). "Castro: Cuba not cashing U.S. Guantanamo rent cheques". Reuters. Retrieved 2007-12-07. 
  10. ^ Cf: a Word document titled The Status of Guantánamo Bay and the Status of the Detainees A presentation to the University of British Columbia - Law. Retrieved July 2014

External links[edit]