As President Obama prepares to make the first presidential visit to Cuba since 1928, a pair of U.S. scientists has proposed that Naval Station Guantanamo Bay — nicknamed Gitmo — be transformed into “a state-of-the-art marine research institution and peace park, a conservation zone to help resolve conflicts between the two countries.”
There has been an American presence at Guantanamo Bay for over 100 years since, after helping Cuba fight for independence from Spain, the U.S. occupied the island in 1898. Under the 1902 Cuban-American treaty, Havana was obliged to lease Guantanamo Bay to the United States as a coaling and naval station, a perpetual lease that could only be broken by mutual consent. Since the 1960s, Cuba has regarded the U.S presence at Guantanamo as illegal, and refused to cash its rent check.
The president recently underlined his desire to close the detention facility at Guantanamo. He has not proposed returning the entire naval facility to Cuba, but in the light of his administration’s move to normalize relations between the two countries, Joe Roman of the University of Vermont and James Kraska of the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law at the U.S. Naval War College have proposed that in addition to closing the detention center, the U.S. could transfer the facility’s other operations to Naval Air Station Key West, just 90 miles away, and in cooperation with Cuba convert the site into a marine research center and peace park.