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    Why Cuba will never send Assata Shakur to the U.S.

    Why Cuba will never send Assata Shakur to the U.S.
    By Achy Obejas

    In May 2013, on the 40th anniversary of her arrest, Assata Shakur was
    suddenly and inexplicably named to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists
    list, with an award of up to $2 million for her capture. She was the
    first woman ever put on that list, but she gained that notorious
    promotion at a time when she was doing little that could be conceived of
    as criminal. Shakur, also known as Joanne Deborah Chesimard, was serving
    a life sentence for murder when she escaped from prison in 1979. For the
    last 30 years, she has been quietly living in Havana, occasionally
    entertaining visitors in her modest apartment, writing and rarely
    drawing attention to herself.

    At the time Shakur made the Most Wanted Terrorists list, Aaron Ford,
    special agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark office, said, “While living
    openly and freely in Cuba, she continues to maintain and promote her
    terrorist ideology. She provides anti-U.S.-government speeches,
    espousing the Black Liberation Army’s message of revolution and terrorism.”

    In other words, even by FBI standards, Shakur was raised to terrorist
    level on pretty shaky grounds: for speaking and writing, usually
    protected activities. At the time, I speculated in an essay for WBEZ
    that Shakur’s addition to the FBI list might have been a way to pressure
    Cuba to release U.S. Agency for International Development worker Alan
    Gross. That was 19 months ago. Just this month, when President Barack
    Obama announced that the U.S. and Cuba were working to normalize
    relations and that Gross would be released, he said the two countries
    had been in secret talks for 18 months.

    Not surprisingly, Shakur is back in the news. Gov. Chris Christie of New
    Jersey, where Shakur was convicted of killing one state trooper and
    grievously wounding another, has called for her extradition.

    But Shakur will never go back to New Jersey or anywhere on American
    soil, and it’s not just because Cuba and the U.S. have no extradition
    treaty. Both countries have inherent interests, ethical and not so
    ethical, in allowing Shakur to die of natural causes in Havana.

    The first is practical: If the U.S. makes a serious request for Shakur,
    Cuba will undoubtedly counter with a request of its own for Luis Posada
    Carriles. The 86-year-old, who has long ties to the CIA and its covert
    activities in Latin America, is now living out his old age in Miami.
    Among his crimes: He was convicted in Panama of the 1976 bombing of a
    Cuban airliner that killed 73 civilians. He has been suspected of
    planting bombs in Havana in 1997 (including one that killed an Italian
    tourist). He was arrested in Panama for an attempt on Fidel Castro’s
    life but pardoned by the U.S.-supported president of that country in 2004.

    Bringing Shakur to the U.S. may satisfy a whole lot of folks who are
    outraged because a convicted cop killer is free, but she has little
    intelligence value to the American government. Releasing Posada Carriles
    to the Cubans, however, is a whole different story: The guy has had his
    hands in everything from the Bay of Pigs to the Contra wars.

    Though neither the U.S. nor Cuba — this would be a pre-Castro Cuba — is
    a signatory to the United Nations’ 1951 Convention on the Status of
    Refugees, which covers political asylum, both have built curious
    reputations for routinely offering asylum. (The U.S. is a signatory to
    the update known as the 1967 Protocol, while Cuba has signed only the
    Mexico Declaration and Plan of Action to Strengthen the International
    Protection of Refugees in Latin America in 2004.)

    Cuba has long been a haven for African-Americans who’ve committed what
    might be interpreted as political crimes. Black Panthers such as
    Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton and Raymond Johnson all spent time in Cuba
    in the 1960s (not always happily). At one time it was speculated that as
    many as 90 African-Americans were living in Cuba under asylum. Indeed,
    Shakur is not even the only one who’s been on an FBI wanted list; Victor
    Manuel Gerena has been on the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list since 1984.

    For Cuba, turning Shakur in to U.S. authorities would constitute a
    betrayal of its long, very carefully cultivated relationship with the
    African-American community, with the African diaspora and Africa itself.
    Castro didn’t just do photo ops with Malcolm X; under his leadership,
    Cuba articulated a vision for the elimination of institutional racism
    and attempted to dismantle it (though even he admitted this was not as
    successful as he’d hoped), put men and women on the ground in several
    wars of liberation in Africa, trained doctors from Africa for free
    through its Latin American School of Medicine and, in recent years,
    extended scholarships to the school through the Congressional Black
    Caucus to U.S. students from underserved communities. (Of course, all
    this has also resulted in tremendous tolerance by African and other
    Third World countries of Cuba’s human rights abuses.)

    Returning Shakur to the U.S. would be an inconceivable 180 on the
    principles that governed all that. And whatever Cuba’s actual record on
    more general ethical behavior, this is one issue on which it has never

    Achy Obejas, born in Havana, Cuba, is a columnist for In These Times and
    the author of five books.

    Source: Why Cuba will never send Assata Shakur to the U.S. – Chicago
    Tribune –