The Slatest

Cruz and Rubio Claim Without Any Evidence That Obama Wants to Give Guantánamo Back to Cuba

An aerial view of part of the Guantánamo Base Naval Station.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

It’s hardly surprising that the Republican candidates for president are coming out against Obama’s plan for shutting down the terrorist detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, which he announced Tuesday morning. But Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are also coming out against something Obama didn’t announce: handing Guantánamo Bay back to Cuba.

The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel reports that at a rally in Reno, Nevada, ahead of Tuesday’s GOP caucus there, Cruz told the crowd, “I believe that President Obama intends to try to give the Guantánamo naval facility to Raúl and Fidel Castro as a parting gift. Four decades ago, Jimmy Carter gave away the Panama Canal. We built it, we paid for it, and then a feckless left-wing president gave it away to undermine this country. Well, Mr. President, you don’t have the authority to give away vital military assets!”

Rubio suggested the same thing to a crowd in Las Vegas, according to the Washington Examiner. “You wake up this morning to the news that the president is planning to close Guantánamo—maybe even giving it back to the Cuban government,” he said. “This makes no sense to me. No. 1, we’re not giving back an important naval base to an anti-American communist dictatorship.”

Rubio and Cruz are either extremely confused or making stuff up. The plan Obama announced Tuesday only concerns the detention facility at Guantánamo, not the 45-square mile naval base that the U.S. has controlled since 1903. Last January, Cuban President Raúl Castro demanded that the U.S. return Guantánamo, the base, as part of the process of normalizing relations between the two countries, but the White House explicitly rejected that demand. While some question whether it’s still worth maintaining the facility, which is not as strategically vital as it was during the Cold War, it’s not something that’s been proposed by high-level officials. Responding to speculation, the White House denied Tuesday any plans to return the base to Cuba.

This is not a thing that is happening. 

Update, 5:00 p.m.: Donald Trump also said he will keep Guantanamo open and “load it up with some bad dudes” in a speech today, but also said he would cut costs at the facility and, in a seemingly contradictory riff, suggested that “Maybe in our deal with Cuba, we get them to take it over and reimburse us, because we’re probably paying rent.”

As a matter of fact, the U.S. does pay Cuba a whopping $4,000 per year in rent for the base, under a deal in place since 1934, but the Castro regime, which views the U.S. presence there as illegitimate, has made a point of never cashing the checks.