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7 Nov, 2013 12:25

Gitmo a go go: Guantanamo’s home away from home (for troops only)

A lot of Gitmo info is classified. But as RT’s crew found out, some of it is secret even for those serving at the facility. Discover why iguanas get special treatment there, and who servicemen can’t date in a special RT report from Guantanamo.

The notorious military facility is known for alleged tortures of detainees, with some of prisoners still held behind bars without charge. Among the latest incidents, it’s emerged that US military doctors took part in torture sessions on inmates.

Although the military are provided with everything they need, from state-of-the-art sports centers to Taco Bell and Starbucks - right inside the facility - there are downsides the service personnel point out.

For one, a lack of information from the outside world. Many of the TV programs broadcast here are army-focused, and the internet is almost non-existent. The RT crew has also been told that those serving at the base are forbidden to go to websites like WikiLeaks.

Another hot issue is, unexpectedly, iguanas. The life of one animal is worth more here than the life of a prisoner, with the fine for running over an iguana set at $10,000.

Officials, though, tend to showcase to journalists how people are well-kept and entertained in Guantanamo.

The daily life of a Guantanamo detainee depends on his compliance. A cooperative inmate is allowed to have eight books, toothpaste and shampoo, while a less compliant one has to wear an orange uniform and gets only two books at a time.

The prisoners can’t enter the library, which displays some of the art they’ve done over the years. Shelves are packed with DVDs, video games, and magazines. The facility provides a lot of pre-selected books which avoid certain topics: violence, sex, militantly religious…anything controversial.

RT’s crew also toured the Guantanamo military base, discovering how the Gitmo’s big bosses keep up morale of those serving.

The 116 sq km military base, with 5,500 people living and working inside, is in fact full of signs of established American life. It’s home to the only McDonalds on Cuban soil, plus a Subway sandwich outlet.

“You’ve got invested financial interest there, you’ve got Pizza Hut and you’ve got Starbucks, and you’ve got all these other places that help to set up a logistical support for the troops that are all over there,” Moazzam Beg, a former Gitmo prisoner, told RT.

Most officers come here short-term for up to nine months, or longer deployments of two to three years. However, it turns out that despite being away from home, their lives aren’t put on hold.

“You can’t date certain people, but you can certainly have. If it’s within your rank system, then you’re allowed to,” Danielle Heinz, who serves as a guard in Camp 6, said to RT.

Plus, there are plenty of things to do during free time. There’s ‘Downtown Lyceum’, an open-air movie theater playing all the hottest Hollywood blockbusters, and there’s almost every sport known to man available at the ‘Team Gitmo’ sports facility. There’s also ‘Tiki Bar’ to let loose at after work – which, according to some, isn’t too hard.

However, despite the bright picture that MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation), the body that takes care of military’s leisure, paints there are controversies surrounding the facility, and some of them are century-long.

The US government has been leasing the territory where Guantanamo is now situated since 1903 for just over $4500 – which is, surprisingly, still the price nowadays, RT’s Anastasia Churkina reports. It’s said, though, that the Cuban government has been refusing to accept the money for decades.

“The Castro government said, ‘We don’t want this lease anymore,’ and the US position was that it’s a binding lease, and in the lease it actually says that it can’t be broken unless both sides, both countries, agree to that. That strikes me as a very odd contract,” Martha Rainer, a Guantanamo detainee lawyer, told RT.