For over 100 years, the USA has occupied the Caribbean island of Cuba. On 23 February 1903, Article II of the Platt Amendment gave the US the “right to do any and all things necessary to fit the premises at Guantanamo Bay for use in coaling or naval stations only, and for no other purpose”. For the readers’ information, no coal has been used by the US naval fleet since the 1930s and the base has certainly been used for purposes other than as a naval station, as recent events clearly show. In reality, the Platt Amendment gave the US the right to intervene military in Cuba whenever it saw fit.
From 1903 onwards, the US government leased Guantanamo Bay (an area covering 45 square miles) for the sum of $2,000 a year. However, since the 1959 revolution, the cheques have not been cashed. Cuba has never attempted to regain its territory by force and has never threatened what it sees as an illegal foreign military presence with aggression. Fidel himself in 1959 described the naval base as “a dagger plunged into the Cuban soil, a base we are not going to take away by force, but a piece of land we will never give up”.
The 1903 Platt Amendment gave the US the “right to do any and all things necessary to fit the premises for use in coaling or naval stations only, and for no other purpose”. Yet, since 1962, the US have kept continental ballistic missiles on the base and used it intermittently as a massive outdoor prison, breaking every international agreement and UN resolution on human rights. (Whilst many are aware of what is happening now in Camp X-Ray, some may be unaware of the 11,000 Haitian boat people who were held in Guantanamo for up to a year before being ‘repatriated’ or sent on to the US.)
The US has a history of fighting predatory wars all over the world – wars that result in the capture and detainment of ‘enemy soldiers’ (read ‘resisting nationals’). Those detained may have been arrested because of an informant’s tip or because someone somewhere has received 30 pieces of silver for information regarding alleged ‘terrorists’; the US don’t care if the tip or information is reliable or not. Subsequently, those arrested may be found to be completely innocent even of the resistance they are accused of.
Nonetheless, these people are flown to the US’s so-called naval base in Guantanamo Bay and imprisoned. They are not accorded the rights of prisoners of war; they are not charged with any crime; they are denied access to their lawyers and families. These are stark facts and cannot be dismissed. Since November 2002, approximately 650 persons from as many as 44 different counties have been jailed at Guantanamo Bay. They are denied their rights under the Geneva Convention and may be held indefinitely.
It is typical of the hypocrisy and doubletalk of imperialism that the US uses the human rights commission in Geneva to accuse any country whose government it does not like, including Cuba, of failing to respect human rights, while at the same time the US and its allies are being exposed as the worst and most consistent violators of those rights.
The camp at Guantanamo Bay Cuba (‘Camp X-Ray’) is rapidly becoming a major human rights scandal. All norms of justice have been overturned, from the basic legal principle that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty to the rights of defendants to legal defence of their choice, and the rule that habeas corpus obtains (ie, that allegations must be backed up with evidence). We must demand an end to all forms of internment without trail, be it at Guantanamo Bay or Belmarsh Prison in Britain.
The US naval base in Cuban territory constitutes a threat to peace and to Cuba’s national security, particularly given the US administration’s virulent hostility to the Cuban revolution. The Cuban constitution, which was approved by 97.7 percent of the people who voted in a referendum held for the purpose, states that the Cuban nation “repudiates and considers null and void the treaties, pacts and/or concessions entered into in conditions of inequality and those which ignore or reduce its sovereignty over any part of its national territory”. Cubans remain on the alert, ready to defend themselves against whatever the US may do, and are determined to assert their rights whenever circumstances make this possible.
On 15 April this year, a US-drafted anti-Cuba motion was passed before the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva by just one vote, with 10 countries deciding to abstain. Some analysts observed that ‘immense pressure’ was used by the US to persuade counties to support their motion, including personal phone calls from President Bush himself.
Despite this, the Cuban delegation at Geneva was applauded in an outburst of emotion very rare for such meetings when it condemned the US human rights abuses in the concentration camp at Guantanamo. The Cuban resolution also called for an immediate investigation into such aspects of the camp as torture, the lack of independence of judges and lawyers and the use of arbitrary detention.
Internationalism is a banner of honour raised by Cubans. 25,000 doctors have carried out internationalist missions and have provided free care to over 14,000 children harmed by the Chernobyl catastrophe. Thousands have taken their knowledge to other lands – to Nicaragua, Angola and Namibia, to name but a few. So who are the real culprits of abusing human rights – Cuba, whose government’s primary concern is the health, education and welfare of the Cuban people, or the imperialist US, which has waged unjust wars the world over in its never ending quest for profits?
The inhuman economic, trade and financial blockade that the US has imposed and maintained against Cuba without letup since the beginning of the 1960s is like a silent bomb.
The serious effects that the economic aggression of the US administration has had in all spheres of Cuban life cannot be summed up briefly. The US also exerts political pressure and makes overt and covert threats against other nations to force them to break their links with Cuba and submit to its policy of isolating the country in order to starve its people into submission.
The Helms-Burton Law (officially entitled the Cuban Liberty And Democratic Solidarity Act), signed by President Clinton in March 1996, seeks, among other things, to internationalise the blockade of Cuba. This law was renewed with even harsher amendments in 1999, and reinforced with other legislative measures that enlarged the economic war on Cuba and extended sanctions and threats to nations attempting to break the US blockade.
Cubans will not submit to imperialist diktat
Cuba, for its part, isn’t claiming any humanitarian assistance from the US. The Cuban government is calling for an end to the genocidal economic war against its people and for the US to respect its right to freely develop its economic and trade ties with other nations in the world.
Much can be learnt from observing the Cuban revolution. The Cubans’ strategy is to build socialism: a more humane, better and more equitable way of life for all, where there are neither exploiters nor exploited, and in which everyone is protected.
The US-Cuban dispute is nothing new; it goes back nearly two centuries. It will end when the US recognises and respects the Cuban people’s right to have a free and sovereign nation – and that includes the United States surrendering the land at Guantanamo Bay. Cubans will never renounce their inalienable right to independence and self determination.