Despite persistent charges of incompetence from the Republican Party, as the New York Times noted yesterday, Barack Obama has drastically reduced unemployment, shortened sentences for drug use, undertaken a major revision of the prison system, advanced immigration, redesigned health care, signed a same-sex marriage bill, suppressed inflation and achieved a rapprochement both with Iran and Cuba. All this within the final years of his second term.
What he has not accomplished yet is the fulfillment of his longstanding pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Republicans are calling this action unachievable, as if America had a sacred right to own land in somebody else's backyard. The real question is what are we doing in Cuba in the first place?
The U.S. leased a 45-square-mile parcel of geography in Guantanamo Bay (for $5000 a year!) following the Spanish American War. It was originally designed to serve as a fueling station. Over 30 years later under Batista's dictatorship, the treaty was rewritten to require the consent of both countries if either wanted to withdraw from the agreement.
Castro suspended his right to Cuba's $5000 annual rent in the hope that the U.S. would reciprocate by abandoning its occupation of the site. Good luck!
Now that Obama has achieved a rapprochement with Cuba, it would seem the perfect time to give up our hold on Guantanamo. But what could the president get in return to satisfy the Congress?
Actually, Cuba contains a lot of formerly American homes and farms that could be exchanged for Guantanamo. One such sumptuous mansion is currently being rented out to China to serve as its Embassy. Indeed, there is currently a total of 5913 certified claims regarding lost property in Cuba, worth an estimated 1.9 million dollars.
Don't you think the return of this real estate would partly compensate us for the outrageous $5000 annual rent we used to pay Cuba towards Guantanamo?