Sunday, July 22, 2012

A 50-Year Exercise in One-Upsmanship

Buenos Dias everyone...(that's 'bonjour' for all the French speakers out there)...

On Friday, the Marine security detachment sponsored a tour out to the northeast gate.  That gate is the border with Cuba proper.  I happen to be in Cuba right now.  I am not on US territory.  The US leases this land from Cuba.  As a result, I will have to clear US customs when I land in Florida.

At the northeast gate, there is still traffic from one side to the other.  After President Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations, there was a grandfather clause in place that those who had jobs on the American side would still be able to cross each day.  50 years later, there are still two people who do.

Anyway, after the US broke off relations, Fidel accused us of stealing Cuba's water.  We were not.  There was a barge coming in with water daily.  The Admiral in charge of the base came out with a video crew in 1964.  In the middle of the night, he cut the pipe, and sent it and the video to the UN.

The first thing I noticed when I got to the gate was that there was no flag on the Cuban side.  Apparently, there was at one point.  There was a constant replacement of flagpoles on both sides, as everybody wanted the taller pole.  The Cubans finally won that exchange, and placed a LARGE flag on top of a nearby mountain.

For a while, the building out there housed the squad of Marines who guarded that gate.  The building had a metal roof.  The Cubans used to go by the fence and throw rocks onto the roof in the middle of the night.  The US built the fence much higher, rendering that impossible.  The Cubans put up wind chimes.  The Marines could either close the window on a non-air conditioned building, or deal with the noise.  I do not recall how that one got settled.

The Cubans then decided to shine a bright spotlight into the building, again with the idea of causing problems sleeping for the Marines.  The Marines ended that one.  They made a 75 foot diameter rendering of the United States Marine Corps emblem.  When the spotlight was turned on, the Cubans saw the emblem.  Once they had finished the emblem, the Cubans turned on the light precisely once.  They never did that again.  Score one for the Marines.

Now, the Marines are not housed there.  The building stands.  The border is quiet.  Once a month, the base commander goes there to meet with a Cuban official on matters of mutual interest, neighbourhood safety, and the like.

Have a good day everyone.


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