February 23 in History

1903 – Cuba leases Guantánamo Bay to the United States ‘in perpetuity’

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, officially known as Naval Station Guantanamo Bay or NSGB, (also called Gitmo because of the common pronunciation of the word by the US military) is the oldest overseas US Naval Base. The Base, located on 45 square miles of land and water at Guantánamo Bay, at the southeastern end of Cuba, was leased for use as a coaling station and naval base on this day in 1903. The lease has no fixed expiration date, and was set at US$ 2,000 in gold per year until 1934, when US unilaterally changed the payment from gold coin to US dollars per the Gold Reserve Act. In 1974, the yearly lease was set to $4,085.

 Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Cuban communist government has consistently protested against the US presence on Cuban soil and called it “illegal” under international law, alleging the base “was imposed on Cuba by force.”  Payments have been sent annually, but only one lease payment has been accepted since the Revolution and Fidel Castro claimed the check was deposited due to confusion in 1959. The Cuban government has not deposited any other lease checks since that time.

Since 2002, the naval base has contained a military prison, for alleged unlawful combatants captured in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places during the War on Terror. Cases of torture of prisoners by the US military, and their denial of protection under the Geneva Conventions, have been criticized.



Photo Caption – 1916 photograph of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base – Google Books

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