GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba – Outside the razor wire that circles the cellblocks, the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay resembles typical small-town America, complete with chain restaurants, baseball diamonds and an ice-cream truck.
Only this town has a lot more security.
About 10,000 people live on the isolated base, 4,000 of them members of the U.S. military and the rest mainly members of their families, civilian support staff and laborers brought in from Jamaica, the Philippines and other countries.
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The community has tripled in size since the U.S. began holding war-on-terrorism suspects here in 2002.
Now they can enjoy an open-air movie theater, a golf course and Cuba's only American fast-food restaurants, including McDonald's and Pizza Hut.
While many residents are housed in barracks, some live in manicured subdivisions where children run into the street at the clang of an ice cream truck's bell.
Guantanamo Bay also has its own school, though there are so few young people that its sports teams resort to playing teams of adults including Jamaican firefighters and hospital staffers.
The detention center is separated from the town by a cactus-studded ridge and is generally out of sight for those who go about their business on the 45-square-mile base.
Administrators take particular care to provide diversions for soldiers and sailors who take 12-hour shifts guarding alleged terrorists and men suspected of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.
A Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department has brought batting cages, scuba-diving classes and billiards competitions. This being the military, popular activities include long-distance runs and swims across the bay.