FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Send Obama to Gitmo

by

shutterstock_106142831 (1)

President Obama should be given props for the progress made in thawing US-Cuban relations, but there’s a piece of unfinished business that he could–and should–still attend to: returning the US Naval Base in Guantanamo to the Cuban people. In doing so, he could also solve another dilemma that has plagued his administration: closing the Guantanamo prison.

In November 2015, CODEPINK brought 60 delegates to the city of Guantánamo for an international conference about the abolition of foreign military bases. To delve more into the impact of the Guantánamo naval base on the Cuban people, we took a trip to Caimanera–a small town of 11,000 people that abuts the US Naval Base on the southeastern coast of Cuba.

Caimanera is hot and humid. Small, colorful but dilapidated houses pack the narrow town streets. There are crowded sidewalk cafes where highly coveted WiFi is available. In the middle of town there’s an impressive central plaza, decorated by statues of Cuban revolutionary heroes, and on the streets around the square there are schools, a community cultural center, Committee of the Defense of the Revolution offices, and more.

Since 1903, Caimanera has been a neighbor to a 73-square-mile US naval base. Before the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Caimanera bustled with visiting American civilians and Marines from the base who poured million of dollars into the tourist industry—mostly from bars and prostitution. Thousands of Cubans were employed on the naval base. After the revolution led by Fidel Castro, the US severed relations with Cuba and US military personnel were restricted to the base. The Cuban government stopped cashing the US annual $4,085 rent checks and demanded that the land be returned to the Cuban people.

As our buses pulled into the town, it was as if the entire community had come out to greet us. Men in suits, women in work uniforms, people holding large banners calling for the closure of foreign military bases, and hundreds of children in their school uniforms all lined the streets, smiling at us and waving Cuban flags. In fact, the whole town had come out to greet us, and they looked positively thrilled.

We spent the day touring the town with the mayor of the town and the governor of the province of Guantánamo. We visited a lookout point where we could see Cuba’s unwelcome neighbor through binoculars. The US naval base, we were told, is an illegal occupation of Cuban land that violates the territorial sovereignty of the island. The base sits on a critical part of the bay that would vastly improve the local economy if the land were returned. They believe, as Raul Castro has said, that the closure of the base is a condition for the full normalization of relations between the two nations.

One part of the US Naval Base that our Cuban hosts found to be particularly egregious is the infamous Camp X-Ray and the other buildings that form the US military prison that has housed 779 prisoners from the US “war on terror” since January 11, 2002. The Cubans are well aware of President Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to shut down the prison and his subsequent failure to follow through. Seven years later, 105 prisoners are still there.

January 11 marks 14 long years since the first prisoners arrived at the notorious prison. Human rights activists and advocates across the world are demanding Obama utilize his executive powers to close the prison and put an end to this blight on America’s history.

Blaming Congress for the hold up in closing the prison, President Obama has run out of excuses. Some of Obama’s top Guantánamo experts have argued that the President doesn’t need Congressional approval to close the prison. After all, President Bush didn’t get Congressional approval when he opened it. They claim that according to the Constitution, Congress cannot specify facilities in which particular detainees must be held and tried.

In his last year in office, President Obama must right two wrongs that would help salvage his legacy: close the US military prison and announce the willingness to close the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo and return the land to the Cuban people.

President Obama has said he’s like to visit Cuba before leaving office. Wouldn’t it be grand if he visited Caimanera to make an announcement that the prison would be closed and the lovely Cuban seaport would finally be returned to its rightful owners? The people of Caimanera—indeed people the world over—would come out to cheer him.

Alli McCracken (@allimccrack) is the National Coordinator of the peace group CODEPINK based in Washington DC. In 2015 she co-led three delegations to Cuba to celebrate diplomacy and learn about the normalization of relations. Sign up now to join CODEPINK in Cuba on May Day this year!

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail