Calls for Guantanamo Bay prison to be turned into a nature park and conservation area

Posted: 26-Mar-16 08:53

A green future has been proposed for the ill-fated Guantanamo Bay as two science professors claim that after the prison's closure the U.S. offshore military base in Cuba should become a conservation area benefitting both countries and thus standing as a peace treaty between the U.S. and Cuba. According to them it would be a logical step amid the current defrosting of relations between the two former foes.

Calls for Guantanamo Bay prison to be turned into a nature park and conservation area

As part of the thawing process between Cuba and the U.S., a proposal by two American professors to turn Guantanamo Bay into a conservation area and natural science lab was recently published in the Science journal.

One of the professors is Joe Roman, the document’s lead author and a repeat visitor to Cuba who works at the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute. After travelling to Cuba quite a few times for work purposes and research, Roman said that a peace park and conservation zone should be the next life for this infamous zone.

Explaining how making the best of a bad situation would be ideal in this case to salvage natural life, he said:

“As a result of this accident of history, wildlife has been thriving there, and that is sort of what prompted me also to put forward this idea – we don’t want to lose that.”

The proposal which he co-wrote with James Kraska, a professor of ocean law and policy at the US Naval War College, states that the new role for the cordoned off area would attract both sides and benefit both countries’ citizens, uniting Cuba and the U.S. in the joint management of a wildlife reserve, instead of this contested territory being a sticking point standing between both nations.

The Cuban government considers the occupation of Guantanamo Bay by the Americans unlawful and while Obama is trying to close down the prison there and has vowed to do so since he first took office, his efforts so far have been unsuccessful.

Both professors also made emphasis on the fact that they believed the U.S. offshore military base of Guantanamo should be given back to Cuba, but in the meantime they believed that the best course of action would be returning the science facilities to the island nation.

As Roman explains:

“I strongly believe that the labs should be returned to Cuba and that it is Cuban territory but we wouldn’t want to lose what has been preserved there.”

The deserted wilderness area surrounding the military base has experienced much less human impact than other parts in the Caribbean because of the discord between the two nations. It’s an important habitat for thriving species of iguana, turtles and manatee.

If the proposal is eventually successful, scientists in Cuba would also benefit immensely as they currently have far more limited resources than the U.S.

“Almost all the scientists I’ve spoken with, whether they are in the United States or are in Cuba, are excited about the idea that there could be a place in the future where we could work together.”

Roman also added that it would be a significant first step in returning the land to Cuba and would help “meet the challenges of climate change, mass extinction and declining coral reefs”.

It’s not the first time that a former military base has been turned into an ecological area for the preservation of wildlife. The Demilitarised Zone in the Korean peninsula is home to thousands of species that are either in danger of extinction or have become extinct in other areas of Korea Similarly, La Ciudad del Saber (or City of Knowledge) in panama stands as a fine example of another U.S. detention facility transformed into an academic institution.

The proposal concluded stating that:

“The Guantanamo peace park and research center would encourage nations to convert military bases and conflict zones into areas of creativity, cooperation, and biodiversity conservation.”

For Cuba’s tourism industry the potential of a new nature reserve could certainly give a boost to the region’s tourist numbers. A former conflict zone transformed into a green haven could generate substantial interest among travellers, nature lovers, conservationists and even history enthusiasts eager to see the spot that marked a grim side of U.S. history.


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