Monday, April 16, 2007
This is a question that has often been asked by people when they meet Cuban ambassador to Malaysia Pedro Monzon Barata and his staff. I asked the same question, too. In fact, not many people know the story behind Guantanamo Bay. Why didn't Fidel Castro do anything about his most loathed enemy?
"Imagine your most loathed nemesis living at your doorstep and you have no way of getting rid of it," said Barata when asked his feeling about US naval base and terrorist detention camp, which sit on the south-eastern corner of Cuba.
Barata fed me with the story behind the "occupation" of the US of his country's land.
"United States assumed territorial control over Guantanamo Bay under the 1903 Cuban-American Treaty, which granted the US a lease of the area. But we had always insisted that the US had come to our country in the 19th century with "imperialistic ambitions and the disposition to apply force in order to realise US objectives"."
Barata said in February 1898, after 20 years of Cuban forces fighting the Spanish army, the US battleship USS Maine arrived in Cuba on a courtesy visit.
"After a few days, it mysteriously exploded, killing 260 of its crew. That explosion was a pretext for invasion and a US admiral, G.H. Rickover, had admitted decades later that the Spanish had not blown up the ship. In fact, US "specialists" had blown up explosives on board the battleship."
Due to that twisted fact, US declared war against Spain and occupied the Cuban territory.
"The aim of intervention was to take the place of Spain. From the very beginning, the Cubans did not count. All the Americans could think of was to defeat Spain. Cuba and its people is nothing to them."
On Dec 10 that year, the Treaty of Paris was signed between the US and Spain, ending what they called the Hispano-American war.
"Under American influence, a "Cuban pseudo government" was formed, with a constitution that would eventually include the US Platt Amendment. The amendment basically included articles which ultimately led Cuban foreign policy into becoming subservient to the US," Barata said.
The Guantanamo Base is a direct result of the Platt Amendment that was imposed by force.
After the Cuban Revolution, led by Fidel Castro in 1959, Cuba began asserting strongly that Guantanamo should be returned but nothing came out of it. Cuba considers the American presence in Guantanamo to be an illegal occupation.
In protest, Cuba has refused to accept rent payments. Castro had once said, "that base is there just to humiliate Cuba; just like a knife stuck in the heart of Cuba's dignity and sovereignty... But from a military standpoint, the base is completely useless".
Walaupun Cuba menyampah nak mampus dan tak boleh terima kehadiran US bersetinggan di tanah milik negara mereka, Barata cakap Cuba tidak akan menggunakan kekerasan untuk mendapatkan semula Guantanamo Bay.
"We are a small country. We don't believe in the use of force."
Cuba katanya hanya boleh meneruskan lobi kerajaan negara-negara dunia untuk menekan US supaya keluar dari Teluk Guantanamo.
Bila aku tanya samada kerajaan Cuba dibawah Castro pernah menunaikan cek bayaran "sewa" yang diberi kerajaan US yang berjumlah US$2,000 setahun, Barata ketawa sinis.
"It was a mere US$2,000 a year! We don't need the money. We don't care about it. All we want is our land back. America is preaching to the world about just and democracy but they are not practicing what they preach. The fact they are actually squatting on other people's land. They have no shame. And yet they are posing economy sanctions on us. They want to get rid of Cuba of Castro but we, the people of Cuba are with Castro because he is our leader."
According to Barata, Fidel Castro is getting better ....
Nota kecik-kenot: Bahagian akhir tentang "Meeting Barata" akan menyusul ... tentang sosio-politik Cuba ... bagaimana mereka menjalankan pilihanraya dengan peruntukan kewangan yang terhad, polisi pendidikan, kesihatan dsbgnya. InsyaAllah ....