Cuba Suggests It Will Grant Political Asylum to American Fugitive Assata Shakur

Immediately after President Obama announced last week that he would be restoring relations with Cuba, questions began to arise regarding whether American fugitive Assata Shakur would be extradited to the United States to serve her prison time.

However, Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s head of North American affairs, suggested that the country would not be returning Shakur or any fugitives who are living there, reports The Associated Press.

“We’ve explained to the U.S. government in the past that there are some people living in Cuba to whom Cuba has legitimately granted political asylum,” she said on Monday. “There’s no extradition treaty in effect between Cuba and the U.S.”

In 1973, Shakur, whose birth name is JoAnne Chesimard, was arrested in New Jersey for killing a state trooper, though many claim that she was framed. With the help of the Black Panthers, Shakur mannaged to escape prison and flee to Cuba, where she has been openly living since 1979. 

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Since President Obama announced plans to mend the country’s relationship with Cuba, many have wondered whether that means Shakur would be forced to return to New Jersey.

U.S. officials, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, have been calling for the return of Shakur, who was the first woman named to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list. Currently, there is a $2 million reward for her capture. 

“So Joanne Chesimar, a cold-blooded cop-killer, convicted by a jury of her peers, in what is without question the fairest and most just criminal system in the world — certainly 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,” Christie said after Vidal’s announcement. “These thugs in Cuba have given her political asylum for 30 years. It’s unacceptable.”

Vidal pointed out that the United States has historically protected many Cuban fugitives. 

“We’ve reminded the U.S. government that in its country, they’ve given shelter to dozens and dozens of Cuban citizens,” she said. “Some of them accused of horrible crimes, some accused of terrorism, murder and kidnapping, and in every case, the U.S. government has decided to welcome them.”