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Location: Havana, Cuba

is a blog to give a fresh angle on a fascinating and beautiful Caribbean Island country that, despite being relatively small and with only 11 million people, has been a major player in American and world politics for a half century. I also suggest you try

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Cuba Hip to Guantanamo Prison

By Circles Robinson

GUANTANAMO, Cuba.—Virtually everybody in Cuba is aware of what is happening at the US Naval Base on illegally occupied Cuban territory; but the fact that they are unable to do anything about it is a frustrating reality.

While the media reports constantly on the abuses committed by US soldiers on the hapless GTMO prisoners, most young Cubans in the neighboring provincial capital of Guantanamo go about their daily lives studying, working, listening to music, playing sports and just trying to get ahead.

“Life in Guantanamo is pretty calm. If it wasn’t for the ample coverage on our TV, radio and the newspapers you’d never know that such horrors were taking place only a couple dozen kilometers away,” said a 32-year-old nurse at a local hospital.

US “peace mom” Cindy Sheehan, former US Army Colonel and diplomat Ann Wright, released GTMO prisoner Asif Iqbal and relatives of another detainee came to the island with other human rights activists early last month.

When they marched up to the fence of the Guantanamo Naval Base on January 11th to demand its closure, the Cuban media kept the population fully abreast of their protest and conducted several interviews.

“The first prisoners arrived in January, 2002, after US-led forces overthrew the Taliban government in Afghanistan,” recalls Reuters in an article published on Sunday.

The news service notes: “The legal status of the prisoners and the concern about their conditions has drawn criticism on the United States from around the world.”

A 60-year old local mechanic said he had never seen the US base since it has been off bounds for the Cuban population.

“The 45 square mile base is home to the only McDonald’s restaurant on the island of Cuba,” regrets the Reuters reporter, implying that Cubans, who boast some of the best health statistics in the Americas, don’t know what they are missing.

To avoid conflict, an 18-mile security perimeter around the base prevents the US soldiers from making any land incursions on the rest of the island or shooting innocent civilians.

“The United States seized the entrance to Guantanamo Bay in the Spanish-American War, which brought Cuban independence from Spain in 1898. The US Navy built a base there in 1903 to supply coal to its ships protecting the approaches to the Panama Canal,” said Reuters.

For 47 years, Cuba has demanded the US return the piece of its territory but Washington has refused, turning a deaf ear to repeated international condemnation of the occupation. Instead, it continues to operate its offshore prison camp where its captives are held without charges and denied any basic rights.


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