Barely a week in to the re-unification efforts of the US and Cuba, New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie calls the Cubans “thugs” for refusing to extradite Assata Shakur. That should go over really well with the Cubans. Way to go, governor Christie.
Cuba has no intention of extraditing Shakur.
The Cuban foreign ministry’s head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal said, “Every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted. 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.”
Vidal’s comments on Monday sum up the unlikelihood that Assata Shakur – formerly known as Joanne Chesimard – will be returning to the US.
Shakur, who was Tupac’s step-aunt and god mother, was granted asylum by Fidel Castro after escaping from prison, where she was serving a sentence for killing a New Jersey state trooper during a gun scuffle, which ensued while stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, in 1973.
Christie has insisted that President Obama demand Shakur’s return before regaining full contact with Cuba.
Christie issued a statement to the White House on Sunday, calling Shakur’s asylum in Cuba “an affront to every resident of our state, our country, and in particular, the men and women of the New Jersey state police, who have tirelessly tried to bring this killer back to justice.”
In a separate statement on Monday, Christie said, “Joanne Chesimard, a cold-blooded cop killer, convicted by a jury of her peers, in what is without question the fairest criminal justice system in the world (much more fair than anything that’s happened in Cuba under the Castro brothers) is now, according to an official of the Cuban government, ‘persecuted?’ These thugs in Cuba have given her political asylum for 30 years. It’s unacceptable.”
White House spokesperson for the National Security Council, Bernadette Meehan, 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.”
According to the State Department, Cuba occasionally returns people convicted or suspected of committing crimes in the US, but extradition isn’t their regular practice. They generally refuse to return anyone for a crime that Havana considers political, according to the State Department.
“We’ve reminded the US government that they’ve given shelter to Cuban citizens,” Vidal said. “Some of them accused of horrible crimes, some accused of terrorism, murder and kidnapping, and in every case the US government has decided to welcome them.”
Moral: What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.