COMMANDER IN CHIEF
U.S. ATLANTIC COMMAND
15 October 1995
Dear Senator Nunn,
I am writing to provide my assessment of the potential effect the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act ( The Helms/Burton Bill) could have on the United States Atlantic Command and operations in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There are currently 8,000 Cuban migrants in camps at Guantanamo Bay, down from 20,000 five months ago. DoD has processed more than 100,000 Cuban and Haitian migrants in Guantanamo Bay over the last few years. When the migrant population was at its peak, it cost the Department of Defense over $1 million a day in operations and maintenance - money which was not in the budget. Additionally, prior to the White House policy announcement in May, we had more than 6,000 U.S. personnel in a potentially explosive situation - guarding and caring for Cuban migrants who were frustrated because there was no hope of leaving the camps.
From a military perspective, the current version of the Helms Burton Bill could create the conditions for more migrants. I believe the Cuban economy is at a low point. I have this on our interviews of more than 40,000 Cubans who have been through Guantanamo. They say one of the primary reasons for leaving Cuba is to be able to provide a basic quality of food and shelter for their families. The bill in its current form could further punish the people, not Castro or the privileged elites. Furthermore, rather than promoting a peaceful transition in Cuba, the bill would give Castro an excuse to maintain his focus on "U.S. aggression." rather than his own failed ideology. I also question the bill's implied assumption that strengthening the embargo will lead to a revolt from within and create the conditions for a transition to democracy. Cuba is not Haiti - the circumstances which allowed for a successful intervention in Haiti, with only one American casualty, do not exist in Cuba. Any operation involving U.S. forces in Cuba would likely have a much higher cost in terms of lives and national treasure.
Our policy objective should be the peaceful transition of power in Cuba, and I support any congressional language that brings about that change.
General, U.S. Marine Corps
The Honorable Sam Nunn
Senate, Committee on Armed Services
Senate Russell Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20310-6050