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One of the largest bays in the world, Guantanamo Bay lies on the southestern end of Cuba, 21 miles south of the city of Guantanamo.

Christopher Columbus paid it a visit for a night in 1494, giving it the imaginative name Puerto Grande before departing.

In 1898, the Marines siezed the bay during the Spanish American War.

In 1903, the United States signed a treaty with the Republic of Cuba establishing a US naval reservation in the bay. In 1934, a treaty signed between the two countries established a permanent US presence in the bay. The reservation is approximately 45 square miles, and according to the terms of the treaty, the lease can only be terminated by the US abandoning the area, or by mutual agreement of the two countries.

Needless to say, Castro isn't a big fan. Since 1959, he has repeatedly threatened to overrun the facility.

The area which is called Guantanamo Bay is being used as a temporary detention centre called Camp X-Ray, Guantanamo Bay is an isolated US outpost on the edge of Fidel Castro's Cuba. The people being held are the Taleban and al-Qaeda prisoners flown from Afghanistan to an American naval base in the Caribbean. The conditions are said to be tough yet humane.

The prisoners are being housed in cells measuring 1.8 by 2.4 metres (six feet by eight feet) with open, chain-link walls, a concrete floor and wooden roof. The cells have concrete floors, wooden roofs and wire mesh walls. Prisoners have a foam mat to sleep on, two towels, one for washing, the other to use as a prayer mat, and some form of chamber pot. Prisoners will wear standard orange jumpsuits at all times. They will spend most of their time separated, although they will be allowed out of their cells in small groups for meals, showers and some recreation. They will be allowed to pray according to their faith.

The aim of this camp is to obtain information on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. The US Administration is holding them as unlawful combatants and at this time they have Geneva Convention rights but this is being fiercly contended.

There is little chance of escape as the base is surrounded by mangrove swamps, salt marshes and dense bush and the sea is shark-infested. The camp perimeters, lit up at night, has watchtowers and two fences topped with razor wire constantly patrolled by heavily armed marines. At night the camp is lit up with halogen floodlights.

American marines landed in Guantanamo during the Spanish-American war in 1898, and the base was established under a 1903 treaty. After Fidel Castro led the Communists to power in Cuba in 1959, then US President Dwight Eisenhower refused to relinquish the base despite strong objections from Havana.

The US in fact leases the base for a little more then was indicated above, set 100 years ago at 2,000 gold coins a year, and now worth about $4,000, it is also known what Mr Castro does with the money; he refuses to cash the cheques.

Some information taken from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/south_asia/newsid_1752000/1752863.stm also thanks to yesno for clearing up some details for me

Guantanamo Bay, a harbor of Southern Cuba, 38 miles E. of Santiago. It was just outside of this bay that United States war vessels, during the early part of the war with Spain, tried to cut the cables which extended from Santiago to Guantanamo and thence to Spain. On May 18, 1898, the "St. Louis" and the tug "Wampatuck" endeavored to get into the mouth of the harbor, but the Spanish batteries and a gunboat in the bay opened up such a severe fire that the "Wampatuck" was forced to withdraw, after grappling a cable about 800 yards from the shore. On June 10, the United States cruiser "Marblehead" shelled the hills on the right of the bay where the enemy had erected earthworks, and the next day the transport "Panther" landed 600 marines at Caimanera. In July, 1901, Guantanamo Bay was selected by the United States government as the site of one of four projected naval stations on the Cuban coast.


Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

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