Español While people’s attention is focused on Russia’s annexation of Crimea, wouldn’t this be an appropriate time to discuss the US annexation of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?
Yes, I know, imperialists and interventionists say that Guantanamo Bay isn’t really annexation but instead a lease of real estate between the Cuban government, as lessor, and the US government, as lessee.
But the fact is that the lease agreement is nothing more than a sham. After all, how many lease agreements do you know have a term of perpetuity? That’s right, under the Guantanamo Bay lease agreement, the lessee (the US government) is permitted to remain in the leased premises forever. How is a perpetual lease different from annexation?
Guess what the annual lease payment is for this prime piece of real estate. The grand total of US$4,085 per year. Yes, you read that right: four thousand and eight-five US dollars per year. No increase for inflation. The same leasehold payment, forever.
How would you like a lease like that? I mean, so long as you’re the lessee, not the lessor. Don’t forget: we are talking about 45 square miles of land and water on a Caribbean island.
The story gets better than that. Actually, the original lease called for an annual payment of $2,000 in US gold coins. That’s because in 1903, when the lease was executed, gold coins were still the official money of the United States, as established by the US Constitution.
But in 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt decreed, without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment, that the official money of the United States would no longer be gold coins but would be instead irredeemable bills and notes of the US government.
That provided FDR with the excuse of securing a modification of the lease nullifying the gold requirement and changing the annual leasehold payment to $4,085 per year. Economists estimate that given the Federal Reserve’s annual debasement of the value of the dollar, the actual lease payment should be around $52,000 a year. It’s just another classic example of how the US government benefits from the fiat money system established by FDR.
Of course, imperialists and interventionists would say, “But Jacob, a lease is a lease. When two sides to a lease mutually agree to the terms, what’s wrong with that? How can this really be considered an annexation when it’s really just a lease agreement?”
Because to be truly valid, an agreement requires willing consent. The Guantanamo Bay lease was acquired through force — the force of the US government being imposed against a small, Third-World, impoverished nation.
To understand how this happened, we go back to the Spanish-American War in 1898; the war that constituted the fateful turn of the United States toward empire. Cuba, along with the Philippines, was fighting for its independence from the Spanish Empire.
The US government intervened in the conflict, ostensibly to help Cuba and the Philippines win their independence. But that ostensible purpose turned out to be a fraud. As the Cubans and Filipinos soon discovered, the US government demanded that Cuba and the Philippines accept the US government as their new master in place of the Spanish government.
When Filipinos objected, the US government proceeded to kill hundreds of thousands of them to establish its new imperialist control over the Philippines.
To avoid the same type of massive loss of life, Cubans decided to give the US government what it was demanding — control over Cuban affairs and leasehold rights at Guantanamo Bay. That’s what the infamous Platt Amendment was all about, which US officials required Cuba to insert into its national constitution. Its terms permitted the US government to unilaterally intervene in Cuban affairs whenever it wanted and mandated negotiations for US military bases on the island, including Guantanamo Bay. Those terms were outlined in the 1903 Treaty of Relations with Cuba.
In 1934, the leasehold was modified to eliminate the authority of the US government to control Cuba affairs but unfortunately it also reaffirmed the leasehold at Guantanamo Bay and effectively extended its term into perpetuity.
Was the 1934 modification consensual? How could it be when it was the US government that was approving which Cubans would serve as rulers? In 1934, the Cuban president was Fulgencio Batista, who was an absolutely perfect model of a US stooge or puppet who faithfully and loyally followed whatever orders US officials delivered to him.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that US officials generously supported the Batista regime with cash and armaments, much as they are doing today with the military tyrants governing Egypt.
It also shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Cuban people ousted Batista, who was one of the most cruel, brutal, and corrupt dictators in Cuban history, in their 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. Since Castro demanded full independence for Cuba from US control, that brought US foreign aid to a screeching halt. It also heralded the beginning of the decades-long obsession within the Pentagon and the CIA with ousting Castro from power and installing another subservient stooge/puppet like Batista to take his place.
It’s time for the United States to clean up this sordid past. It’s time for the US government to abandon its annexation of of Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo Bay rightfully belongs to Cuba, not the United States.
This article was first published with The Future of Freedom Foundation.