When news broke last week that the U.S. and Cuba were in talks to lift embargoes and begin a relationship with a country that we’ve had a stained relationship with for decades now.
Our outlet as well as many others had major concerns with the talks. One concern was what would be done with Assata Shakur.
Shakur, government name Joanne Chesimard has been on the run since she broke out of a New Jersey jail in the 70’s. She, along with others were accused of shooting a New Jersey state trooper to death.
She proclaimed her innocence. She would later flee to Cuba where she was protected by the Cuban government against extradition. Would these new talks mean that a possible trade-off would be Shakur?
The Cuban government emphatically dismissed those notions.
Per RT News
Havana drew the line at giving back American fugitives granted asylum in Cuba, after NJ Governor Chris Christie urged President Obama to demand extradition of a convicted cop-killer before reestablishing bilateral ties.
The person Christie wants back in a US jail is Assata Shakur, an activist, former member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army (BLA), who was the first woman to be placed by the FBI on its most-wanted list.
For US law enforcement Shakur remains a dangerous criminal on the run, meriting a place on the FBI’s most-wanted list and a $2 million bounty combined from the bureau and the New Jersey state police. Republican Governor Christie demanded that her extradition be made a condition for America’s normalizing ties with Cuba in blunt terms.
“Cuba’s provision of safe harbor to Chesimard by providing political asylum to a convicted cop killer … is an affront to every resident of our state, our country, and in particular, the men and women of the New Jersey State Police,” Christie wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama.
“I urge you to demand the immediate return of Chesimard before any further consideration of restoration of diplomatic relations with the Cuban government.”
But Havana apparently is not willing to negotiate on Christie or any other person granted asylum in Cuba, declaring it is the legitimate right of a sovereign state.
“We’ve explained to the US government in the past that there are some people living in Cuba to whom Cuba has legitimately granted political asylum,” Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s point person for the reengagement with the US after decades of hostilities, told AP on Monday.
She added that the two nations have no extradition treaty and that the US has “given shelter to dozens and dozens of Cuban citizens.
“Some of them [are] accused of horrible crimes, some accused of terrorism, murder and kidnapping, and in every case the US government has decided to welcome them,” she said.
Christie responded to Vidal’s statement later in the day.
“So Joanne Chesimard, a cold-blooded cop-killer, convicted by a jury of her peers, in what is without question the fairest and most just criminal justice system in the world – certainly much more just than anything that’s happened in Cuba under the Castro brothers – she is now, according to an official of the Cuban government, persecuted,” he said, branding the Cuban government “thugs.”
Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council, said the Obama administration will “continue to press in our engagement with the Cuban government for the return of US fugitives in Cuba to pursue justice for the victims of their crimes.”