Photo: Guantanamo Soccer Field under Fire
Surrounded by surveillance cameras and numerous guard towers lies the brand new, nearly complete, $744,000 soccer field unveiled on Thursday during a visit by reporters to the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The new field, named ‘Super Rec’ by many troops will be open for inmates in April after latrines and goals are installed. The intent of the field is to improve relations between inmates and guards while also provide activities and physical outlets for the inmates.
Yet, the unveiling of this new commodity has caused quite a stir among members of Congress. Representative Gus Bilirakas (R) of Florida sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressing his criticism of the soccer field while fellow Florida Republican Representative, Dennis Ross introduced the ‘No Field Act’ also known as the ‘None of our Funds for the Interest, Exercise, Leisure of Detainees Act.’ He later stated, “Gitmo should not be a place of comfort. It should house the worst of the worst of the world’s terrorists, not be a training ground for the World Cup.”
Supporters of the new 28,000 square feet field argue that costs are automatically higher at Guantanamo due to the fact that all supplies must be imported to the area. The United States is not permitted to do business with Cuba and therefore has to ship everything to the base. As a result of the base’s isolated location, many personnel argue that keeping the inmates active both physically and mentally is of extreme importance. As a result, military psychologists teach weekly classes which help prisoners deal with their indefinite time at the base. Each cellblock is also equipped with flat screen televisions and many have exercise equipment.
It has already been estimated that the government spends $800,000 annually per inmate at Guantanamo, while only $26,000 per year on mainland inmates. Yet even with these high costs per prisoner, in 2010 opponents of the new field, such as Bilirakas and Ross, voted in separate instances to prohibit the Obama administration from transferring Guantanamo inmates to American soil or their native countries.
Texas Representative Ted Poe, a Republican and former judge, also opposes the new soccer field and openly ridiculed it during a speech on Thursday. “Our government has no business building this tropical Caribbean recreation facility for terrorists. What’s next at this terrorist playground? A Tiki hut and bar on the beach?”