U.S. government broke Guantánamo lease

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The U.S. government has tried to topple the Cuban government, kill its president, strangle its economy.
Now add this minor indignity: The U.S. “is technically in default” of a 1901 treaty allowing a military base at Guantánamo in Cuba, a State Department official wrote in 2006. That’s because the lease says the base can only used as a “coaling station” of the kind once used to fuel the U.S. Navy’s fleet of steam-powered ships.
The U.S. government has shown no intention to return the land to Cuba and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars building what the U.S. Navy describes as its premier deep-water base in the Western Hemisphere.
Under terms of the lease, the U.S. is required to pay $2,000 in gold – worth more than $4,000 in today’s dollars. The U.S. Treasury cuts a check to Cuba for that amount every year and the Cuban government refuses to cash it.

Rent payment: A U.S. Treasury Department check to Cuba for $4,085.

The April 26, 2006, memo from Timothy Zuniga-Brown to Thomas H. Gerth states:

  • First, the lease gives the United States “complete jurisdiction and control” of that territory, saying merely that it “recognizes the ultimate sovereignty of the Republic of Cuba.
  • Secondly, the lease can only be terminated on the mutual consent of both parties. Even though Cuba has wanted to terminate the lease since the revolution in 1959, it is unable to do so without the consent of the United States. The lease actually provides for a minuscule rent, some two thousand dollars in gold (equivalent to about $4,085 a year in current U.S. dollars), although the Cuban government has refused to accept any payment since 1959. The United States is technically in default, and has been for many years, because the lease provides that the base is to be used only for a coaling station.

The State Department released the memo in 2014 and it was posted on the governmentattic, which contains thousands of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

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