HAVANA, Cu. – In a sign of good faith, Cuban president Raul Castro on Friday agreed to turn three Russian-made nuclear warheads that his country has possessed since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis over to the United States. President Castro, who called the warheads “a gift from Moscow,” said they have been “collecting dust” on a launch pad aboard three long-range rockets which have been pointed at Washington, D.C. for more than four decades.
President Castro said the outdated Cold War relics have served as a makeshift monument to a period when tensions between the U.S. and Cuba were at an all-time high. Now, the nuclear armed missiles sit nestled among a trio of jagüey trees on the outskirts of one of Havana’s many schoolyards. “They are like a radioactive jungle gym,” joked Javiero Casteneda who serves as the groundskeeper for the secondary school where the warheads are located.
Cuba’s decision to turn the twenty-megaton warheads over to the U.S. is being viewed by some American lawmakers as an attempt to ease tensions between the two countries, particularly as the United States begins to consider the possibility of returning the naval base at Guantanamo Bay back over to Cuba.
“The biggest issue on the table right now is whether the Cuban government intends to house its political prisoners alongside the current detainees at Guantanamo or if they plan to expand the facility to include a separate block all together,” Air Force Brigadier General Jose Monteagudo, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, told The Washington Post. “It’s our hope that the Cuban government will continue to show the detainees the same level of humanity afforded to them by the United States,” the brigadier general said.
President Barack Obama, who visited Cuba last week as the first American president to do so in nearly eighty years, called the decision to turn the warheads over “a step in the right direction” but said the tiny tropical nation still has a long way to go before it sheds its authoritarian roots. “I believe that President Castro truly wants change,” Mr. Obama said. However, the president added the process will likely unfold over time as a new generation of Cubans rises to power.