Policy ForumScience Diplomacy

Reboot Gitmo for U.S.-Cuba research diplomacy

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Science  18 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6279, pp. 1258-1260
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad4247

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Cuba has about 5000 km of coastline, including coral reefs, mangrove wetlands, seagrass beds, and tropical wet forests. Long stretches of coast remain undeveloped, with relatively high levels of fish biomass and marine biodiversity in marine parks that are unparalleled in the Caribbean (1, 2). But on the eve of President Obama's visit to Cuba, we must consider whether normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, with anticipated expansion of coastal development and return of industrial agriculture, might reverse Cuba's advances in ecological conservation. We propose an approach to protect Cuba's coastal ecosystems and enhance conservation and ecological research throughout the Caribbean. The United States should deliver on President Obama's recent plan to close the military prison at U.S. Naval Station Guantánamo Bay and repurpose the facilities into a state-of-the-art marine research institution and peace park, a conservation zone to help resolve conflicts between the two countries. This model, designed to attract both sides [similarly, see (3)], could unite Cuba and the United States in joint management, rather than serve as a wedge between them, while helping meet the challenges of climate change, mass extinction, and declining coral reefs.