There are two kinds of people here: those holding fast to hope and those who have lost it.
Buoyed by the departure of about 2,000 Cuban refugees for the United States, more than 21,000 other Cubans still encamped here have settled in to wait their turn. But it's all over for the roughly 3,500 remaining Haitians.The Cubans may remain at Guantanamo because they are considered refugees from communism. Most of the Haitians, however, have been told they must return home now that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is back in power.
Many are frightened at the prospect.
"I didn't leave my country because life wasn't good," said Islande Vincent, 21. She showed two scars on her right leg - entry and exit holes from a bullet wound she said she suffered in violence.
"Aristide himself doesn't have any security," she said. "If he had had enough security, the American people would not have had to go there."
Many of the Haitians, languishing in tents on a sun-baked airstrip surrounded by razor wire, say the armed thugs who have long terrorized Haiti will resurface once U.S. troops pull out.
"If I go there and I die, I know God will judge the American people," said David Mombrun, 22, who, like the others, fled Haiti in hopes of reaching the United States and was intercepted at sea.
Thousands of the Haitians returned voluntarily after U.S. troops reinstated Aristide on Oct. 15. A total of 677 accepted an offer of $80 and a temporary job to return home, said Army Maj. Rick Thomas, a base spokesman.
Another 500 boarded U.S. Coast Guard cutters for Port-au-Prince Sunday, and 272 were held back while officials determine if it's safe for them to return.
"This isn't their first choice, so I don't expect them to be happy," said Marine Brig. Gen. Raymond Ayres, head of the joint task force running the refugee operation. "I personally empathize with them, but we can't do this forever."
The operation costs $20 million a month, excluding the payroll for about 4,700 military personnel, Thomas said.
The administration initially said none of the Cubans at Guantanamo would be allowed into the United States but later admitted about 2,000.