There has been much talk of shutting down the notorious detention center at Guantánamo Bay — which, since it opened in 2002, has gained a reputation as a home to numerous human rights violations — but not much has been said about what would happen to the prison after it closed.
Now a pair of biologists have proposed a beautiful solution: turn it into a marine research center, with the goal of promoting international scientific discovery and building political goodwill.
"This could be a powerful way for the Obama administration to achieve the president's 2008 campaign promise to close the prison — while protecting a de facto nature reserve and some of the most important coral reefs in the world," Joe Roman, a conservation biologist from the University of Vermont said in a press release.
While marine ecosystems and coral reefs around many islands in the Caribbean have been damaged due to tourism and trade ships, Cuba's complicated political relationship with the rest of the world has left their marine systems largely intact. By protecting the waters now before travel to Cuba increases, it could become one of the most important marine research centers in the world.
Cuba has objected to the U.S. presence on the island for decades, and while there are no plans to leave, a research center would be a brilliant way for Americans to remain in the country while offering something substantial in return.
"Cuba has great conservation scientists," Roman explained. "They just don't have money or equipment."
Sharing the research center with Cuban scientists would give them access to equipment, facilities, and resources. It would also foster a spirit of collaboration, which is important to scientific and diplomatic progress.
Today, Guantánamo Bay conjures images of torture, terrorism, and fear, but that need not to be the case in the future. "For the next generation," the authors wrote in the paper, "the name Guantánamo could become associated with redemption and efforts to preserve and repair the environment and international relationships."
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