Give Guantanamo Back To Cuba NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr looks back at how the U.S. Navy came to put a base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and how the Cubans have long declared their interest in recovering that land. He says the U.S. should end its presence on Guantanamo.
NPR logo

Give Guantanamo Back To Cuba

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/104894738/104895970" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Give Guantanamo Back To Cuba

Give Guantanamo Back To Cuba

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/104894738/104895970" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Three facts: President Obama has said he wants to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Congress is wrangling over whether to allow the prisoners into this country and Cuba has said for a long time that it wants that land at Guantanamo back. All three statements are true, and senior news analyst Daniel Schorr sees an opportunity here.

DANIEL SCHORR: Guantanamo is the name of a Caribbean inlet in southeastern Cuba that provides one of the biggest and best-sheltered bays in the world, perfect for a naval base. Guantanamo today is also the name of a major presidential headache. The prison there houses some 240 detainees, as they're called. And President Obama has promised to shut it down, but has so far not found many countries willing to accept the detainees, least of all, this country, whose leaders say, almost in chorus, not in my backyard.

How did the U.S. come to have this piece of Cuba in the first place? In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a deal with a liberated Cuba to lease the 45-square-mile area. The price: 2,000 golden coins a year. The lease was later re-negotiated to stipulate that it could only be canceled by U.S. abandonment or by mutual agreement. And the U.S. still sends checks for some $4,000 a year. When Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, he indicated he wouldn't abrogate the agreement, but he soon changed his mind.

In 1961, President Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations. And by 1964, Castro was trying to cut off the water supply to Guantanamo, and the U.S. started bringing water in by ship. Periodically, the Havana government demanded the return of the land and it stopped cashing the rental checks. But, separated from the rest of Cuba by a well-patrolled fence, the Guantanamo base grew, most recently expanded to provide a prison complex for terrorist suspects.

The Obama administration has been reviewing its relations — or non-relations — with Cuba. And so, here is a modest proposal: How about President Obama announcing that he is ready to end America's century-old presence in the Cuban Bay? Evacuation would be immediate - leaving the installation just as it is. That would leave Castro to figure out what to do about the detainees. The Castro regime is pretty experienced in handling prison populations. Just a thought.

This is Daniel Schorr.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.