Researchers at the Naval Station Guantanamo Bay have recently suggested the site should be turned into a “marine research institution” and a “peace park” which both Cuba and the U.S. could use a common ground when trying to settle their conflicts.
Recently, President Barack Obama announced that he plans to visit Cuba this month, which will make him the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in the country in 88 years. Guantanamo Bay has been under American control for more than a century due to a treaty signed by both countries in 1902.
Back then, the Caribbean country was forced to lease the area to the U.S. perpetually, unless both parties agreed to call off the deal. But in the last 50 years, Havana has deemed the U.S. control over the region illegal and refused to cash any of the $4,000 per year rent checks.
In February, the President unveiled his plans to close the detention facility and transfer the remaining 91 detainees to various detention centers on U.S. soil. Nevertheless, he has not said that he would return the naval facility to Havana.
But, in the wake of the announcement, researchers Joe Roman and James Kraska proposed that the facility should be retrofitted as a marine research center. The two published their proposition in the journal Science.
According to the paper, the naval station should become a “Woods Hole of the Caribbean,” with a research and educational center where U.S. and Cuban scientists could cooperate on hot issues such as global warming, ocean conservation and preventing biodiversity loss.
Study authors also envision that the base should be repopulated with native wildlife. Roman noted that because Cuba has been for so long isolated from the rest of the world and has set in place a set of strong environmental rules, its coastal coral reef is remarkably well preserved.
But if tensions between the two countries continue to grow, the reef is in danger too. Plus, if Cuba decides to opt for ecotourism, wildlife could be threatened. Regardless of which path Cuba decides to follow, the U.S. has a strong say in the future of that part of the island called the Guantanamo naval base.
The two researchers noted that the base’s surroundings provide a home to many endemic species including the green turtle and hawksbill turtle, which are both critically endangered. Additionally, the base hosts tropical dry forests, which rarely occur in other parts of the largest island in the Caribbean.
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