Guantanamo Bay is a natural harbor located on the southwest corner of the island of Cuba. In 1903, under the Cuban-American treaty, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, the United States was granted control over Guantanamo Bay. The same treaty granted Cuba independence from the United States, which was assumed under the Treaty of Paris ending the Spanish American war. The same treaty also granted the United States control of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
The U.S. Navy and Marines first used the bay for operations during the Spanish American war, when the naval base was established in 1898. In 1934, another treaty was signed continuing the lease and changed the lease agreement from two-thousand dollars a year, to a little over three-thousand. The original lease was set to expire in 2003, but the same 1934 treatment made the lease permanent unless both governments agreed to break it, or the United States abandoned the base. This makes Guantanamo Bay the oldest U.S. Naval Base operating overseas.
When Fidel Castro took over the government in 1959, he tried to nullify the agreement, but then President Eisenhower, struck down his objections and continued to honor the treaty agreement. Since then, Castro has only cashed one of the rent checks, but according to the United States government, the cashing of that one check ratified the agreement and nullified Castro’s objections. Since 1959, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base has been the only United States naval base operating in a country in which they do not have diplomatic relations.
Since 1987, the United States has maintained a detention camp at Guantanamo Bay Navel Base, operated by a joint task force. In 2002, the detention camp was converted to a military prison to hold enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan and Iraq. These prisoners are not entitled to protections under the Geneva Convention of 1948 according to a ruling made by the Bush administration. In 2006, the Supreme Court overturned part of that ruling, granting minimal protections under the Geneva Convention, and the Department of Defense promptly complied with that ruling.
Under the new administration of Barack Obama, one of the first official acts was his signing an executive order declaring the detention facility will be shut down within the year. This order in no way affects the U.S. occupation of Guantanamo Bay as a military base. The controversy over the detention center is not the first major crisis of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. During the Cuban missile crisis, families of military personnel were evacuated almost overnight and weren’t allowed to return for over a year.