Guantanamo Bay or “Gitmo” started off as a Naval Base in 1898, after the United States took control of Cuba following the Spanish-American War. In 1902, the US agreed to withdraw from Cuba and both nations signed the Cuban-American Treaty, which declared peace and recognized Cuba as a sovereign nation. The US was also given a permanent lease for their base through The Platt Amendment.
Guantanamo Bay, which holds the distinction of being the oldest American military base on foreign territory, has had a long and troubled past. Many people felt the Cuban government was forced to sign the treaty in 1903, and that the terms of the lease for the 45-square-mile property were unfair. By 1934, The Platt Amendment was annulled, and another lease was signed by the two countries. This new document increased the amount of money that the US paid Cuba, an increase of $2,000 in gold coins annually, and stipulated that both countries must agree before any other changes could be made. Relations between the two nations seemed to improve … until 1959.
Cuban President Fulgencio Batista played an important role in establishing the revised lease for Guantanamo Bay, but was soon overthrown in 1959 after a violent revolution. Fidel Castro came to power, and made it clear that he felt the US should relinquish their claim to the property. Tensions were high, and American soldiers were soon forbidden from leaving the base and entering any part of Cuba.
In 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved a plan known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The purpose was to take Fidel Castro out of power, and was carried out the following year under the administration of President John F. Kennedy. Despite long term planning, the invasion was a failure and Cuban troops quickly defeated the American soldiers. Over the next few decades, things got even worse. Fidel Castro made it clear that Cuba wanted the US out, although he never attempted to drive them away using force.
The purpose of the base has changed dramatically over the years. For a brief time it was utilized as a shelter for refugees from Haiti and Cuba, although most people viewed it as more of a detention facility. Eventually, Guantanamo Bay was turned into a prison, primarily to hold purported terrorists from Iraq and Afghanistan. As a prison facility, Guantanamo Bay became even more notorious and controversial than ever. By 2004, a full scale inspection was underway to investigate charges of abuse and torture of the prisoners. Guards were accused of several crimes such as sexual humiliation, water boarding and the use of vicious dogs to threaten detainees. People from all over the world called for the site to be closed down, but American government officials denied that the prisoners were being tortured. President George W. Bush and other top executives claimed that only necessary methods of interrogation were utilized, and they kept the facility running.
On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. One of his first executive orders called for the shutting down of Guantanamo Bay. This plan has become the subject of a great deal of controversy: many people feel that Guantanamo Bay is essential in preventing terrorists from escaping and attempting to cause harm to the United States. Another major issue that hangs over the intended closure is the incomplete paperwork for the prisoners. Many of them have never been officially charged with a crime, and the papers that do exist are out of order, scattered around at multiple locations or simply missing. This makes it difficult to determine what exactly should be done with each individual, and decisions about their fates have continued.
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