01 April 2009
Miss Universe’s Gitmo travelogue
When I saw this in today’s Independent I thought that this must surely be an April Fool’s joke but the BBC says otherwise.
It would seem that Miss Universe, Venezuelan Dayana Mendoza, has been fulsome in her praise for Guantanamo Bay. "I didn't want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful," she wrote in her blog at the end of a five-day trip.
Ms Mendoza, a Venezuelan model, was crowned Miss Universe last summer. Since then, she has clocked up stops in Indonesia, Spain, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. "This week, Guantanamo!!!" she trumpeted on her blog. Her visit to the base was designed as a morale-boosting treat for troops. "The first thing we did was attend a big lunch and then we visited one of the bars they have in the base. We talked about Gitmo and what it was like living there," wrote Ms Mendoza.
Other highlights included meeting the military dogs – who "did a very nice demonstration of their skills" – and a first-hand look at the detainee camps with their orange jump-suited inmates. "We saw the jails, where they shower, how they recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, books," she said. "It was very interesting."
Cori Crider, who has represented more than 40 current and former Guantanamo prisoners, described the visit as the "latest surreal chapter" in the history of the prison. The lawyer had just finished visiting an inmate, who had been shackled to the floor, and was driving back to her office when she saw a large crowd of jostling soldiers. "At the centre of the uniform swarm was a shock of glossy hair and a brightly patterned top that looked more like one you'd wear on beach holiday, her hip was out, her arm around a Marine," said Ms Crider. "It's obviously tempting to blame her for posing for a photo a stone's throw away from the isolation camps, but people don't think. They miss human suffering going on right under their nose."
Miss Mendoza described the sea thus: "The water... is soooo beautiful! We went to the glass beach, and realised the name of it comes from the little pieces of broken glass from hundreds of years ago. It is pretty to see all the colours shining with the sun." Miss Universe's final encounter was with a jewellery maker. "I bought a necklace from her that will remind me of Guantanamo Bay."
Hmm I wonder if some of the longer term visitors will have similar fond memories, but then I doubt any of them had the chance to buy a necklace or visit the glass beach...