Thursday, January 1, 2015

Despite thaw with Cuba, US will retain possession of Guantanamo Bay

A sure sign that Guantanamo Bay will remain in American hands for the foreseeable future is the continued investment in the facility. The most recent investment is a very expensive school.

Guantanamo Bay has the most expensive prison on the globe. Now it will have one of the most expensive schools as well. Although the cost of running the prison is huge it needs large continuing investments just to keep the facilities in decent shape as parts of the prison need repair in the worst way. An article from the New Republic sums up the situation: At a cost of $2.8 million per prisoner per year, Guantánamo is the most expensive prison in the world. (The costliest prison in the U.S., the Colorado Supermax, at $78,000 per prisoner per year.) And the costs will continue to rise as facilities that were built to be temporary, like the Camp America Dining Facility, deteriorate. In addition to the dining facility repairs, the 2015 defense budget also calls for $11.8 million to upgrade a medical clinic that was never built to serve an aging population of prisoners. Congress earmarked another $69 million to renovate Camp 7, the top-secret facility that holds the 15-high value detainees who were tortured in CIA black sites prior to their transfer to Guantánamo. In March, The Miami Herald reported that the ground below the facility had shifted, causing the floors and walls of the building to crack.
 The new school at the base will cost $65 million but will house at most 275 children from kindergarten to high school. The cost works out to around a quarter-million dollars per student. In Miami-Dade county in contrast a new school would cost around $30,000 a student. There are about 6,000 residents in Guantanamo Bay. In all, there are 243 students at Guantanamo at present. The prison is run by 2,000 plus temporary troops and private contractors. As part of expenditures meant to bring the base up to par with other government agencies the Pentagon announced that it would install a $40 million fiber optic cable between the U.S. mainland and Guantanamo.
 While legally Guantanamo Bay is still part of Cuba, it has been leased by the U.S. since 1903. The annual cost of the least is just over $4,000 a year but since the Castro revolution of 1959 the Cuban government refuses to cash any of the checks issued in payment by the US. The Cuban government does not recognize the legitimacy of the contract which is in perpetuity and can only be terminated by the agreement of both parties. One reason the prison was built at Guantanamo is that it is not US territory and hence U.S. laws regarding prisoners held in the US would not apply. 
 As part of the recent negotiations to establish diplomatic relations, Cuba apparently asked for the return of Guantanamo but the U.S. declined. According to McClatchy DC the White House said that the status of Guantanamo Bay will not be affected by re-engagement of the U.S. with Cuba.
 This year the pace of prisoner releases from Guantanamo has picked up with 28 being released so far this year, the largest number since 2009. More than half of the remaining prisoners are from Yemen but the U.S. refuses to release any there in spite of the demands of the Yemeni president who is a firm ally of the U.S. Six prisoners were recently released to Uruguay and even more recently five to Kazakhstan. However, given the investment that is being made both on the base and the prison, as well as the restrictions placed by Congress on the transfer of prisoners, it seems unlikely that either the prison let alone the base will be closed in the near future.


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