Feb. 6, 1964 - Cuba cut off the normal water supply to the United States naval station at Guantanamo today in reprisal for the seizure Sunday by the U.S. of four Cuban fishing vessels off the coast of Florida. At a news conference today, Premier Fidel Castro said that the water supply to the base would be allowed to flow one hour a day, from 8 to 9 a.m. This, he said, would serve the essential needs of the population there, “particularly the women and children.” “You do not deny water even to the enemy,” he said.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Raul Roa had announced that the valves in the aqueduct carrying water to the naval base, on the southeastern coast of Oriente Province, were shut at noon. He said the water supply would remain cut off until the Cuban crew members of the seized boats had been released. The U.S. State Department has said the four Cuban fishing boats were detained because they had violated U.S. waters. The Cuban Foreign Ministry added said that neither the treaty under which the U.S. has leased the Guantanamo base since 1903 nor any other international agreement bound Cuba to provide water for the base. The Castro Government has repeatedly demanded that the U.S. give up the base.
The seizure of the boats this week, followed by today’s action affecting Guantanamo, represented the first head-on clash between the Castro Government and the Johnson Administration. President Johnson received a complete briefing on the Cuban situation tonight upon his return to Washington from New York. He will hold a top-level meeting at the White House tomorrow morning on the U.S. position in response to Cuba’s move at Guantanamo. The water supply to Guantanamo had not been cut off during past crises such as the break of diplomatic relations in 1961, the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961, or the missiles episode in October 1962. Therefore, speculation in Washington centered on the assumption that Cuba had decided to force a showdown on the Guantanamo treaty, taking advantage of the Panama crisis. Panama has been demanding the revision of the 1903 treaty giving the U.S. sovereignty over the Canal Zone.