By Norm Dixon
Cuba has demanded that the United States government close the Guantánamo Naval Base. The base, opened in 1903, was imposed on Cuba after US troops occupied the island during war with Spain in 1898.
There are growing fears that Washington may provoke a military incident involving the base following the Soviet Union's decision to withdraw its small contingent of troops in Cuba.
Noted US scholar and antiwar activist Noam Chomsky painted a scenario earlier this year that is beginning to look a very real possibility. He said that "Cuba will be the third exercise [after Panama and Iraq]. I think this is another example in which, through a combination of economic pressure, subversion and perhaps military confrontation exercises in Guantánamo or something similar, they'll try to find some kind of pretext to overthrow the Cuban government."
The call for the removal of Guantánamo, made in a front-page editorial in the Cuban Communist Party daily Granma on September 14, was a response to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's announcement that all remaining Soviet military personnel would be withdrawn from Cuba. Gorbachev's announcement in Moscow, with US secretary of state James Baker at his side, was made without consultation with the Cuban government. The US has made the economic and political abandonment of Cuba a precondition for economic aid to the Soviet Union.
The Granma editorial pointed out that "a minimum Soviet military presence" was established on the island as a result of the 1962 missile crisis. Since 1962 Soviet military personnel in Cuba have been reduced, according to US State Department figures, to just 7600. In his announcement, Gorbachev referred to 11,000 personnel.
The 1962 crisis was also resolved between the Soviet Union and the US without consultation with Cuba, Granma reminded its readers. It noted that if "the demand for the withdrawal of the US naval base in Guantánamo had been pushed with the force and intelligence that the situation required, today there would be neither Soviet nor US forces in Cuba".
Gorbachev referred to the "symbolic" military presence as belonging to different era. "We were the first to use the word symbolic", said the Granma editorial. "For us it has two meanings. This brigade is not numerically significant in the military defence of Cuba, but it was deeply significant as an expression of friendship and solidarity in the face of the US's ever present threats ...
"We may ask to what epoch does the 30-year inhumane and criminal US blockade of Cuba belong? What does it symbolize? Likewise the harassment, the hostility, the implacable efforts to strangle our economy, the savage pressures on governments, international organisations and even US companies with overseas investments, all aimed at isolating Cuba, at making it yield, at starving the Cuban people to their knees. "To what epoch does the illegal US occupation of Cuban territory of Guantánamo belong? What does it symbolize when the US maintains an obsolete military base on our soil against the expressed wishes of the Cuban people? What is that base for if not to humiliate and intimidate the Cuban people?"
Gorbachev made no reference to this US military presence in Cuba. Granma said the unilateral announcement made Cubans suspect that "a shocking concession had been made" to abandon Cuba to the mercy of the US. "Fortunately, this is not 1962 but 1991. For 10 years now Cuba's defence has been based on our willingness to pay with our own blood for our aim of never returning to slavery under the US."
Granma called for "a simultaneous withdrawal from our country of Soviet and North American military personnel. This would be the only fair and equable solution under the present circumstances ...
"Cuba is willing to participate in an international agreement to that end, guaranteed by the UN. In that accord, mutually acceptable bona fide measures could be included with all necessary guarantees. Among them, of course, an end to the attempts to invade Cuba that have been systematically pursued by US regional commands for some years now.
"As shown in the cases of Namibia and Angola, Cuba is willing to contribute to finding negotiated political settlements to regional conflicts. As has been historically proven and is daily evident in the UN, Cuba is willing to participate in the quest for feasible solutions to the great problems of our age, problems that range from peace to a new international economic order, solving the Third World's foreign debt problem and the struggle to end drug trafficking and achieve nuclear safety."
Granma also discussed the implications of a US-imposed world order. "It fills us with dismay and indignation to think that we are moving towards a world order in which small Third World countries, such as Cuba, whose social systems are not to the liking of the US, will be forced to either submit or be obliterated ...
"Cuba is not a threat to any country or government on the planet. But no one should harbor any expectation that Cuba will renounce its principles in order to obtain advantages at the cost of others. The Soviet Union's unilateral unconditional decision to withdraw its military unit from Cuba, taken without prior consultation with Havana, gives the green light to the US to push forward with its plans for aggression against the island. This is what the withdrawal of the symbolic unit symbolises. No other explanation or interpretation makes sense. Cuba will never agree to be handed over or sold to the US, it will never return to slavery and will struggle to the death to resist this."