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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Guantanamo Bay: Tourist destination
Observation point above Guantanamo Bay Cuba
Tourists get a view of Camp Delta

Tucked away on Cuba's southernmost tip, the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay is perhaps the world's most unlikely tourist destination.

Fifteen miles south of the town of Guantanamo, up a steep road where the tarmac all but runs out is the Loma Malones observation point.

Part military post, part tourist resort, here is a remarkable view onto a quirk of history.

For a few dollars a driver will pick you up at the hotel in downtown Guantanamo.

In good English, like most Cubans in the state-run tourist industry, he will tell you the history of the base, about the Americans and Cubans that work there, and the complexities of an international real estate that have left this piece of Cuba in American hands.

Sour relations

Back in 1901, the US signed a 100-year lease for the base with a then friendly Cuban government.

Somewhere in the last century the deal went awry, and now the base will only be returned to Cuba with the consent of both governments. While relations remain so bad, that is unlikely anytime soon.
A tourists sips a drink
Tourists can relax with a drink from the bar

Tourists were always welcome here. But it is a long way from old town Havana or the beaches of Varadero - at least 17 hours by car. But the new inmates from half a world away have brought renewed attention to Guantanamo.

Even Cuban army chief Raul Castro, brother of Cuban leader Fidel, paid a visit and offered his help should any of the prisoners escape.

It is dry and hot up here. A wide, dusty road marks the boundary.

Behind the high fence, a line of cacti, and across some scrubland watchtowers built by the Americans.

The Stars and Stripes hang defiantly from each side that faces Cuba. From the Cuban side, you can hear and see the live fire exercises of the Cuban army.

The gunfire and explosions are clearly audible in the US base. It is a reminder to the Americans if they needed one whose island this is.

Of course most of this is not visible to the naked eye. So the Cubans have provided a telescope for tourists to get a closer view. It is made in Alabama, USA.

Through the lens the base shimmers in the heat. If it gets too hot, you can adjourn to the bar, where the staff outnumbers the visitors.

They will serve drinks and a meal as you watch the valley below.

Camp Delta

Today the tour guide has brought an American student. "It looks so boring," she says. "It's just like Los Alamos."
Camp Delta
Camp Delta is clearly visible, shimmering in the midday heat

She refuses to give us her name. American tourists are keen to come to Cuba but they are not so keen on the $10,000 fines their government imposes on people who visit the island.

In the foreground is what she came to see: Camp Delta, which replaced the Camp X-Ray detention facility.

The Americans have built a dozen or so low huts to accommodate the prisoners. Beyond are more robust buildings used for the interrogations.

Four watchtowers surround this camp within a camp. If you look closely you can see the US soldiers keeping a watchful eye on the prisoners. It looks like the set from a bad World War II film.

A party of German tourists arrive, crowding round the telescope for a view of the world's most dangerous prisoners. But they are to be disappointed.

Not an orange jump suit in sight. At Guantanamo Bay no-one ventures out into the midday heat, even the world's most dangerous terrorists.

See also:

30 Apr 02 | Americas
27 Apr 02 | Americas
21 May 02 | Americas
21 May 02 | Americas
18 May 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
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