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An agreement was signed in February 1903 by Cuban President Estrada Palma and U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt leasing certain land and water areas in Guantanamo Bay for coaling (fueling) and a naval station at a cost of $2,000 in gold. In 1934 the agreement was revisited and a treaty signed, giving America a perpetual lease that will only be terminated if the U.S. abandons the area, or by mutual agreement between the two countries.

To uphold the treaty, the United States maintains a continuous naval presence, fueling capabilities, the shipping channel and the fence line and makes the annual rent payment, now equivalent to about $4,000.

Servicemembers used to move freely through the gate to visit nearby Caimanera and Guantanamo City. Many Cubans worked for the U.S. government at the naval station.

The relationship between Cuba and the U.S. changed in 1959, when Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries overthrew the Cuban government. The U.S. prohibited its servicemembers from going into Cuban territory. Cubans who currently worked on base were allowed to keep their jobs, but Castro ordered that no new hires were allowed to work for the United States.

Now the Northeast Gate is closed to U.S. servicemembers and is used by three Cubans and a handful of high-ranking military officials.

The Cubans are picked up on the U.S. side and driven to their jobs, which are largely symbolic. The trio pick up retirement pension checks from the U.S. government to former Cuban employees.

And monthly, Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Leary and leading officials from the Cuban military meet at the gate in a "very formal, very scripted" meeting, said Executive Officer Cmdr. Sylvester Moore. "It’s just to have a line of communication," he said.

Moore said they will warn the Cubans of any construction near the fence line or exercises that would otherwise seem suspicious. If officials need to communicate between meetings, they do so through e-mail, he said.

"They do the same very religiously for us," Moore said.


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