Guantánamo Bay does not feature on the US agenda for President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba. Though the issue lacks priority with the US, it nonetheless occupies one of the most important spots on Cuba’s list, contending that the US is illegally occupying the territory.
“So on Guantánamo Bay, I know that will be part of the discussion,” the Breitbart News quoted Ben Rhodes, the president’s Deputy National Security Advisor, as telling the White House press. “They are insistent that our presence there is not legitimate and that the facility be returned to them.”
“But again that is not on the table as part of our discussions. We are focused on the range of issues that I discussed [earlier in the conference], but I’m sure that they will raise it. It continues to be of concern to them. With respect to the claims issue, that will certainly be on the agenda as well. We have initiated, under the State Department’s leadership, a dialogue with the Cubans on the ‘issue of claims’ over the US military base at Guantánamo Bay,” he added.
“There are many claimants in the United States. We’ve been engaging many of them to try and determine the best way forward to see that again their concerns are satisfied,” he said.
The Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, which staffs thousands of US service members, has not been visited even once by Obama during his tenure as US president. However, he is scheduled to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro and his people during his two-day visit from March 21 to 22. Obama will be the first sitting president in 80 years to make a visit to the island nation.
The US took control of the naval base in 1903, located to the far east of the Island, and remained under its control even after the communist revolution in 1959. The USA Today reported that though the base is situated within the sovereign Cuban territory, the USA has been paying US$4,085 (AU$5,750) as a payment for lease, which the Castro regime has not cashed for decades.