How did the U.S. get a naval base in Cuba?

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Jan. 18 2002 5:25 PM

How Did the U.S. Get a Naval Base in Cuba?

What's the deal with the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba? How did the U.S. get a military base in a hostile, Communist country?


The United States seized Guantanamo Bay and established a naval base there in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. Five years later, the U.S. and Cuba signed a lease giving Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. as a "coaling and Naval station." The lease was required to implement the congressional Platt Amendment, which stipulated, among other things, that a naval base "at certain specified points to be agreed upon by the President of the United States" was required "to enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba."

In 1934, Cuba and the U.S. signed a treaty that gave the U.S. a perpetual lease to the area. The U.S. can't open a casino resort there, however: Private enterprise is banned under the terms of the treaty. The lease can be broken only by mutual agreement, so as a practical matter, Guantanamo Bay is U.S. property. It was there before Castro and will be there after him.

Explainer thanks the official Web site for the U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Chris Suellentrop is the deputy editor for blogs at Yahoo News and a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. He has reviewed video games for Slate, Rolling Stone, and Follow him on Twitter.



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