Thursday, January 26, 2006

Cuba appoints captain to command unit around U.S. base

Posted on Thu, Jan. 26, 2006
Cuba appoints captain to command unit around U.S. base

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- The Cuban army general who has been the
Pentagon's primary contact with this isolated U.S. Navy base has retired and
been replaced by a navy captain, the U.S. commander here says.
Brig. Gen. José Solar Hernández, commander of the Frontier Brigade deployed
around the base, announced his retirement Jan. 20 at the monthly regularly
meeting held along the fence that separates the Navy facility from Cuba
He was replaced by Cuban Navy Capt. Pedro Román Cisneros, U.S. Navy Capt.
Mark Leary told The Miami Herald in an interview this week.
The United States and Cuba started monthly meetings here a decade ago to
avert misunderstandings between U.S. Marines and Cuban soldiers who face off
across a 17.4-mile fence.
For example, before the United States opened the 8,000-mile air-bridge that
brought al Qaeda and Taliban suspects here from Afghanistan in January 2002,
the U.S. side used the fence-line meeting to notify the Cuban government of
its intent to hold suspected terrorists on the 45-square-mile base.
The job of commanding the Frontier Guard unit is significant because it
signals the Cuban government's trust in a person who regularly meets with
U.S. officers.
Leary said the new commander, Cisneros, is a veteran navy officer of 37
years who served in submarines. Cuba is believed to have retired its three
submarines nearly a decade ago after the loss of Soviet subsidies to Havana.
Cuba had a small, Soviet-supplied naval fleet during the Cold War. But
military analysts describe its navy today as a tiny, short-range force whose
purpose is to defend the coast and intercept civilian vessels on
unauthorized trips.
Leary reported that so far there has been a seamless transition from Solar
to Cisneros, who already has engaged in a routine e-mail exchange with the
base through a special communications link.
U.S. officials said they had advance notice from Solar of his retirement, so
Leary bought a humidor at the base commissary and had it engraved with a
crest as a farewell present.
''He seemed genuinely pleased with it,'' said Leary.

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