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At the south-east end of the island, 45 square miles of Cuban territory, (only 30 on the mainland) were given to the US in 1903 as a token of gratitude for its help in the war against Spain. A treaty signed in 1934, and which can only be modified by mutual consent, ceded the base to the US.

During WWII Guantánamo was strategic in the fight against German submarines. It is the main US logistical base and training camp in the Caribbean, an essential part of its antisubmarine defence system. Since 1960 the Castro regime has been protesting the US presence and, consequently, the symbolic $5,000 yearly dues has been systematically refused.

During the missile crisis, it took only a few hours for the 2,811 members of the military personnel's families to be evacuated whilst the garrison was substantially strengthened. Guantánamo has its own desalination plant and all supplies are shipped from nearby Florida. Besides US military personnel, Guantánamo also accommodates boat-people from Haiti and Cuba as well as Islamist prisoners from Afghanistan.

 

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