Sticky issues: American fugitives, including a convicted cop killer, still enjoy asylum in Cuba

It appears as though many American media personalities and Democrats are overjoyed by President Barack Obama’s unilateral decision to reverse decades of American foreign policy and normalize diplomatic relations with communist Cuba. The first step on the road to normalcy was the easiest: a mutual prisoner exchange. The following steps will grow gradually more difficult as over 50 years of adversarial politics are ironed out.

Among the stickiest of issues that will need to be addressed if Washington and Havana are to become international partners, as Ed Morrissey observed, are the refugees from American justice who are currently hiding out in Cuba. One of the most potentially controversial of these cases is that of Assata Shakur, AKA Joanne Chesimard.

Shakur escaped from prison after being convicted in 1979 of murdering a New Jersey State Trooper in 1973 after she was pulled over, along with two fellow members of the Black Liberation Army. Following years on the run, Shakur managed to travel to Cuba where she claimed she had not received a fair trial in America because she was assigned an all-white jury. After claiming that she could never receive justice in the United States, Havana granted her political asylum in 1984.

An extensive post in her defense on The Grio noted that many of the jurors assigned to the trial that finally convicted Shakur (there were more than one) had personal connections to state troopers and that a New Jersey assemblyman had privately urged jury members to convict.

Moreover, evidence proved Shakur was targeted and framed by the covert and illegal FBI COINTELPRO program. The baby of J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO was designed to monitor, infiltrate and destroy social justice movements seen as a threat to national security, including civil rights and antiwar groups, the Black Power movement and the Young Lords. Some of the stated goals of the program in an FBI memo were to “prevent the coalition of militant black nationalist groups,” to “Prevent the RISE OF A ‘MESSIAH’ who could unify…the militant black nationalist movement,” to “Prevent militant black nationalist groups and leaders from gaining RESPECTABILITY, by discrediting them to…both the responsible community and to liberals who have vestiges of sympathy…,” and to “prevent the long-range GROWTH of militant black organizations, especially among youth.”

“During this time of bold decisions coming from the White House, it is better for the president to pardon Assata,” The Grio’s David Love concluded.

That’s not happening, but even if it were it would not serve to paper over all the bad blood between Cuba and the United States. Shakur is not the only case of deferred justice that Cuba is actively preventing, according to The Daily Beast:

Cuba also granted asylum to three black militants who hijacked an airplane from Albuquerque while being sought for the 1972 murder of New Mexico State Trooper Robert Rosenbloom during a traffic stop.

One of the three, Ralph Goodwin, is said to have drowned while swimming at a beach outside Havana. The other two, Charlie Hill and Michael Finney, continue to live in Cuba. Hill told a Washington Post reporter in 1999 that he had no regrets about killing Rosenbloom, who had a wife and two young daughters.

“I have never felt guilty about that cop,” Hill was quoted saying. “I never think about that dude.”

“Among the roughly 80 other American fugitives in Cuba is Ishmael Ali LaBeef, who hijacked an airplane after he and four buddies murdered eight innocents during a robbery at a Virgin Islands golf course in 1972,” the report continued. “There is also Victor Gerena, who is wanted in connection with a $7 million armored car robbery in Connecticut in 1983.”

These are just a handful of the American criminals Havana has decided to protect. That report goes on and on…

These and other confounding issues are now to be worked out between America and Cuba. Perhaps the Obama administration will decline to press the issue of extradition rights, but a future administration almost certainly will. If Obama fails to address the points of contention between the two hostile nations today, the opening of Cuba as a “legacy achievement” may be a short-lived one.