STATEMENT BY THE GOVERNMENT OF CUBA TO THE NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC OPINION
THE U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo is a facility located in an
area of 117.6 square kilometers of the national territory of
Cuba occupied since 1903, due to an Agreement on Coaling
and Naval Stations signed by the Government of the United
States of America and the Government of Cuba under
President Tomás Estrada Palma. At that time, our country was
not really independent since an amendment – known as Platt
Amendment – had been passed by the U.S. Congress and
signed by President McKinley on March 1901 while our country
was under occupation by the U.S. army, after its intervention
in the independence war waged by the Cuban people against
the Spanish metropolis.
The Platt Amendment, which granted the United States the
right to intervene in Cuba, was imposed on the text of our
1901 Constitution as a prerequisite for the withdrawal of the
American troops from the Cuban territory. In line with that
clause, the aforementioned Agreement on Coaling and Naval
Stations was signed on February 1903 in Havana and
Washington, respectively. It actually included two areas of
our national territory: Bahía Honda and Guantánamo,
although a naval base was never established in the former.
In Article II of that Agreement, the right was literally granted
to the United States to do "all that is necessary to outfit
those places so they can be used exclusively as coaling or
naval stations, and for no other purpose."
In addition to that treaty of February 1903, on May 22 that
same year a Permanent Treaty of Relations was signed by
Cuba and the United States of America using the exact text of
the 8 clauses contained in the Platt Amendment which were
thus turned into articles of said treaty.
Twenty-one years later, on May 29, 1934, in the spirit of the
United States’ Good Neighbor Policy under President Franklin
Delano Roosevelt, a new Treaty of Relations was subscribed
between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of
America that abrogated the previous 1903 Treaty, thereby
abrogating the Platt Amendment. The new Treaty definitely
excluded Bahía Honda as a possible base, but it sustained
the presence in Guantánamo Naval Base and kept in effect
the rules of establishment. As for such rules that remained in
force, Article III of the new Treaty stated: "Until the two
contracting parties agree to the modification of the
agreement in regard to the lease to the United States of
America of lands in Cuba for coaling and naval stations signed
by the President of the Republic of Cuba on February 16,
1903, and by the President of the United States of America on
the 23rd day of the same month and year, the stipulations of
that agreement with regard to the naval station of
Guantánamo shall continue in effect. The supplementary
agreement in regard to coaling and naval stations signed
between the two Governments on July 2, 1903, also shall
continue in effect in the same form and on the same
conditions with respect to the naval station at Guantánamo.
So long as the United States of America shall not abandon
the said naval station of Guantánamo or the two
Governments shall not agree to a modification of its present
limits, the station shall continue to have the territorial area
that it now has, with the limits that it has on the date of the
signature of the present Treaty."
As evidence of the abusive conditions imposed by that Treaty,
the above-mentioned supplementary agreement established
that the United States would compensate the Republic of
Cuba for the leasing of 117.6 square kilometers – that is,
11,760 hectares comprising a large portion of one of the best
bays in the country – with the sum of 2,000 U.S. dollars
annually, presently increased to 4,085 U.S. dollars annually –
that is, 34.7 cents per hectare – to be paid to Cuba in yearly
checks. An elemental sense of dignity and absolute
disagreement with what happens in that portion of our
national territory has prevented Cuba from cashing those
checks which are issued to the Treasurer General of the
Republic of Cuba, a position and an institution that ceased to
exist a long time ago.
After the victory of the Revolution in Cuba, that base was the
source of numerous frictions between Cuba and the United
States. The overwhelming majority of the over three thousand
Cubans who worked there were fired from their jobs and
replaced by people from other countries. At present, only 10
Cubans work there.
In the past, shots were often made from that facility against
our territory, and several Cuban soldiers died as a result.
Counterrevolutionaries found haven and support over there.
Following unilateral decisions by leaders of the U.S.
government throughout the revolutionary period in Cuba, tens
of thousands of immigrants – Haitians and Cubans who tried
to make it to the United States by their own means – were
taken to that military base. Throughout more than four
decades, that base has been put to multiple uses, none of
them contemplated in the agreement that justified its
presence in our territory.
But Cuba could do absolutely nothing to prevent it.
On the other hand, for almost half a century propitious
conditions have never existed for a calm, legal and diplomatic
analysis aimed at the only logical and fair solution to this
prolonged, chronic and abnormal situation, that is, the return
to our country of that portion of our national territory occupied
against the will of our people.
However, a basic principle of Cuba’s policy toward this bizarre
and potentially dangerous problem between Cuba and the
United States, which is decades long, has been to avoid that
our claim would become a major issue, not even a specially
important issue, among the multiple and grave differences
existing between the two nations. In the Oath of Baraguá
presented on February 19, 2000, the issue of the Guantánamo
base is dealt with in the last point and formulated in the
following way: "In due course, since it is not our main
objective at this time, although it is our people’s right and
one that we shall never renounce, the illegally occupied
territory of Guantánamo should be returned to Cuba!"
That military enclave is the place where American and Cuban
soldiers stand face to face, thus the place where serenity and
a sense of responsibility are most required. Although we have
always been willing to fight and die in defense of our
sovereignty and our rights, the most sacred duty of our
people and their leaders has been to preserve the nation from
avoidable, unnecessary and bloody wars.
At the same time, it is also the place where it would be
easier for people interested in bringing about conflicts
between the two countries to undertake plans aimed at
attracting aggressive actions against our people in their
heroic political, economic and ideological resistance vis-à-vis
the enormous power of the United States.
Our country has been particularly thoughtful about applying
there a specially cautious and equable policy.
It should be pointed out, however, that even if for decades
there was quite a lot of tension in the area of the
Guantánamo naval base, there have been changes there in
the past few years and now an atmosphere of mutual respect
In 1994, when a large number of rafters sent by the U.S.
authorities concentrated there, the situation created
determined the need to solve the numerous problems that
had been accumulating, which endangered the lives of many.
Some people interested in migrating to the United States
from our own territory attempted to do so through the base,
while quite a few tried to leave the U.S. military base and
return to our country crossing mine fields. Accidents occurred
and often our soldiers had to take major risks to rescue
people from the mine fields. Such actions also required
information and cooperation from the personnel stationed at
the base. Additionally, there were the heavy rains and
swollen rivers in the area that swept away mines and blurred
their markings which gave rise to similarly hazardous
situations for all.
Such circumstances contributed to an improvement of the
atmosphere there and to authorized, albeit minimal, contacts
that were indispensable to those in positions of responsibility
on both sides of the base area. Consequently, what prevails
there today is not what could be described as an atmosphere
of hostility or war.
Two new international developments have had a bearing on
the situation in that base: the war in Kosovo in 1999 and the
war in Afghanistan after the terrorist acts of September 11. In
both cases, the United States has played a protagonist role.
In the former case there was a large number of Kosovar
refugees. The Government of the United States of America, in
accordance with previous commitments, made the decision to
use the military base to shelter a number of them. Such
decisions are always made unilaterally; our views are never
previously asked; and, we were never even informed.
However, on that occasion, for the first time, we were
informed of the decision and the rational behind it. We then
gave a constructive response.
Although we were opposed to that war, there was no reason
for us to oppose the assistance that the Kosovar refugees
might need. We even offered our country’s cooperation, if
necessary, to provide medical care or any other services that
might be required. Ultimately, the refugees were not sent to
Guantánamo naval base.
This time the decision has been adopted to bring prisoners of
the war in Afghanistan to that military base. The same as in
the past, we were not consulted but there was a gesture in
previously providing ample and detailed information on the
steps that would be taken to accommodate the prisoners
there and ensure that the security of our people is not in
anyway jeopardized. The latest details were given to the
Cuban authorities last Monday, January 7, 2002.
The information supplied indicates that there will be a strong
reinforcement of the military personnel at the base in charge
of taking the necessary measures for the accomplishment of
Despite the fact that we hold different positions as to the
most efficient way to eradicate terrorism, the difference
between Cuba and the United States lies in the method and
not in the need to put an end to that scourge – so familiar to
our people that have been its victim for more than 40 years –
the same that last September 11 dealt a repulsive and brutal
blow to the American people.
Although the transfer of foreign war prisoners by the United
States government to one of its military facilities – located in
a portion of our land over which we have no jurisdiction, as
we have been deprived of it – does not abide by the
provisions that regulated its inception, we shall not set any
obstacles to the development of the operation.
Having been apprised of the operation and aware of the fact
that it demands a considerable movement of personnel and
air transportation vehicles, the Cuban authorities will keep in
contact with the personnel at the U.S. naval base to adopt
such measures as may be deemed necessary to avoid the risk
of accidents that might put in jeopardy the lives of the
personnel thus transported.
Despite the major increase of military personnel that such an
operation will require, we feel that it does not pose any
threat to the national security of our country. Therefore, we
will not increase the Cuban personnel or the military
equipment stationed in the area of that facility. Our highly
disciplined and qualified personnel suffice to ensure the
safety of the population in the region in case of any danger
that might originate with the transfer of the foreign prisoners
to that base.
Cuba will make every effort to preserve the atmosphere of
détente and mutual respect that has prevailed in that area in
the past few years.
The government of Cuba appreciates the prior information
supplied and has taken note with satisfaction of the public
statements made by the U.S. authorities in the sense that
the prisoners will be accorded an adequate and humane
treatment that may be monitored by the International Red
Although the exact number of prisoners that will be
concentrated there is not yet known, just like on the occasion
of the project to transfer to that place thousands of Kosovar
refugees, we are willing to cooperate with the medical
services required as well as with sanitation programs in the
surrounding areas under our control to keep them clean of
vectors and pests. Likewise, we are willing to cooperate in
any other useful, constructive and humane way that may
This is the position of Cuba!
Government of the Republic of Cuba
January 11, 2002