A Relaxing Place, So Calm and Beautiful
April 8, 2009 § 2 Comments
No, I am not talking about Shangri-La. That is Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza describing Guantanamo Bay prison, where she apparently also met ‘military dogs’ who performed ‘a very nice demonstration of their skills’. Claire Soares reports.
Wishing for world peace is so passe; nowadays, Miss Universe can be found blogging about Guantanamo Bay.
“I didn’t want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful,” Dayana Mendoza gushed at the end of a five-day trip. It may not be a sentiment that Binyam Mohamed would share about his time at the US base in Cuba, but then he wasn’t buying souvenir necklaces to take home at the end of his four years of incarceration.
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 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.”
For Cori Crider, who has represented more than 40 current and former Guantanamo prisoners, the Miss Universe visit was simply the “latest surreal chapter” in the history of the prison. The human rights lawyer, who works for Reprieve, had just finished visiting an inmate, who had been shackled to the floor, and was driving back to her office when she saw a 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 a 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.”
Other human rights analysts expressed a certain amount of sympathy for the US troops, noting that Guantanamo is a tough assignment.
However, one person who is likely to be unimpressed with Ms Mendoza’s visit is the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He called to congratulate the Caracas-born model when she won the Miss Universe crown last July, but as an anti-US Cuba ally, he would certainly not approve of her fraternising with US soldiers at Guantanamo Bay.
The Miss Universe Organization rushed out a statement, which took care to note that Miss Universe is “An NBC Universal, Inc. and Donald J. Trump Partnership”. All this reminded me of the following segment from the Daily Show.