Cuba’s Berlin Wall – Mines, Barbed Wire, and Sharks
Cuba’s Berlin Wall: Mines, Barbed Wire, and Sharks
Thousands Die Seeking Asylum in Guantánamo Bay
BELÉN MARTY JULY 15, 2015 AT 9:47 AM
EspañolNilda Pedraza’s son, Iskander, is one of countless Cubans who
have tried reach the US Naval Base in Guantánamo by water in search of
asylum. She says Cuban officials shot and killed her 26 year-old son
with AKM rifles from one of the watchtowers 50 meters away, before he
could reach the coast. Afterwards, they buried him in a cemetery in
Guantánamo in an unmarked grave.
The perimeter of Guantánamo Bay is Cuba’s version of the Berlin Wall.
Located in the southern part of the island, it divides the sovereign
territory of Cuba from the US naval base, surrounded with agents of the
Cuban Armed Forces, anti-tank weapons, watchtowers, electric fences,
thousands of antipersonnel landmines, and motion sensors.
The fence around Guantánamo serves the same function as the wall that
fell in Germany just over 25 years ago: to prevent those on either side
from reaching the other. While crossing the fence is equally dangerous
on either side, the majority of those who have died have been Cuban
dissidents looking to escape.
The Cuban government, however, says the world’s largest minefield was
established to protect against a potential US invasion.
Dr. Oscar Biscet @OscarBiscet
#Cuba El otro #MurodeBerlin es el de #minas antipersonales (70 mil) que
el gobierno de Castro tiene en territorio de Caimanera, Guantanamo.
4:14 AM – 14 Nov 2014
“The other Berlin Wall is that of landmines (70,000) the Castro
government has in the territory of Caimanera, Guantánamo.”
Without reliable data of any kind, countless thousands are believed to
have drowned since the 1960s trying to reach Guantánamo Bay.
Human-rights NGO Cuba Archive reports that those who tried to cross by
land had to dodge over 50,000 anti-personnel mines and anti-tank
weapons, placed there by the US government during the Cold War, and
later removed, without much fanfare, in 1996.
According to the NGO, the Bill Clinton administration filed a “rare
protest” in the 1990s when US personnel at the naval based witnessed the
number of Cubans killed by Cuban border guards rise significantly.
Theodore Scotes, commander at the base’s Camp Bulkeley in 1968,
confirmed that guards have orders to shoot to kill anyone who attempts
to cross the fence, the NGO reports.
Even today, Cuban citizens are not free to leave their country whenever
they like. According to Article 215 of the Cuban Penal Code, citizens
must have a valid passport and a permit from the Ministry of the
Interior to enter or exit the country.
“While the US naval base prison for accused terrorists receives
widespread condemnation, the Cuban killing fields and ghastly dungeons
on the Cuban side of Guantánamo remain altogether ignored. It is high
time for the double standard and for this human tragedy to end,” Cuba
Archives insists in their report.
The town of Caimanera, which borders the disputed territory, is one of
the areas where the Cuban government has planted more mines. These
devices do not discriminate, and have caused the serious injury and
death of children, adults, and animals.
“They planted these mines on the perimeter; [later], the place was
turned into a school, but they never checked if these devices remained
active,” Anderlay Guerra told Noticias Martí.
Moreover, other local journalists have stressed that residents do not
know the location of many of these mines, and that even young military
officers have been victim to these devices. To this day, the Castro
regime is the only one in Latin America that has not signed the Ottawa
Treaty to eliminate the mines. The government claims it will sign once
the United States withdraws from the island.
“What the government worries about is maintaining a minefield perimeter
so that Cubans don’t go looking for their freedom,” says the journalist
José Manuel García.
Ivan Picón, a rafter who the government has banned from returning to
Cuba, says he has a friend who reached Guantánamo by foot, crossing
through the minefield, and another one who swam.
“He crossed through the mines without knowing, because a few years ago,
not everyone in Cuba knew that there were mines on the ground. Many
people lost limbs, arms, legs … several were mutilated,” he told the
For Picón, there is no doubt that the Castro regime planted the mines to
prevent Cubans from crossing to the other side. “I do not think they
have been removed. The devices are still there. They also planted
landmines in Angola,” he says, adding that from time to time, explosions
can be heard from different parts of the island.
Picón says Cubans don’t much other choice when trying to escape “prison
island.” He estimates that more than 10,000 Cubans have drowned trying
to reach the US territory in Guantanamo.
While the reopening of the US Embassy in Cuba is just days away, neither
government has commented on the issue of Cuba’s modern-day Berlin Wall,
which goes seemingly ignored as former rivals reestablish diplomatic
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