The Naval Station Guantánamo Bay rims the two entrances to Guantánamo Bay 25 km (16 mi) south of the capital. The base is behind a virtual no-man's land of minefields and barbed wire planted years ago by Fidel Castro to keep determined Cubans on the island. Your best chance of seeing it is from Alturas de Malone, high above the city. The United States has controlled the base since 1903, when it was granted an indefinite lease under the Platt Amendment. The terms were
changed in 1939, but America remains in the role of an unwanted tenant, standing on extremely beneficial terms. The U.S. pays a bit more than $4,000 a year in rent, but the checks to the Cuban government remained uncashed under Fidel Castro (they were supposedly kept in one of his desk drawers).
Although closed to Cuba since Castro took power in 1959, the base has, in recent years, been used as a way station for Haitian and Cuban refugees, not to mention as a controversial offshore prison for suspected terrorists (at this writing President Obama has pledged to close the prison, though this had not yet come to pass). A plan to house refugees from the Kosovo war here was scrapped as insensitive due to cultural and climatic differences between this tropical island and the refugees' Eastern European homeland. Inside the base, the 7,000 military personnel and their families live with all the comforts of home, including a golf course, several pools, sports facilities, shopping malls, a McDonald's, an airport, and marina facilities.