Michael Parmly, formerly the top U.S. diplomat in Havana during the “transformational diplomacy” days of Secretary of State Rice, says that the United States should negotiate the return of the Guantanamo Naval Base to Cuban control, with arrangements that allow for continued use of the facility for naval purposes and to maintain some prisoners in a U.S. jail there. It would be a “bold step,” he says, similar to the return of the Panama Canal to Panamanian control.
Parmly makes the argument in a soon-to-be published article that Reuters obtained. While we wait for the full article, it’s interesting that he sees it as in the U.S. national interest to make a big, conciliatory move toward Cuba. You can bet that Parmly’s instructions from Washington contained no such idea when he was in Havana and the United States was cranking out reports on the coming “transition” in Cuba.
The 1903 agreement between Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Tomas Estrada Palma provides that Cuba leases the base to the United States “for coaling and naval stations” and that the United States is permitted “to do any and all things necessary to fit the premises for use as coaling or naval stations only, and for no other purpose.”
Of course the days of “coaling stations” are over and we have used it for other purposes, especially for activities that we want to carry out in a place that we control but that is beyond the reach of U.S. law.
“The base is our hostage,” Raul Castro said in a 2008 interview. “As a president, I say the U.S. should go. As a military man, I say let them stay.” Perhaps he holds that view because the base is the one place where Cuban and U.S. military officers meet regularly and because, as he added in the same interview, “the State Department tends to be less reasonable than the Pentagon.”