Cuba said Monday that it has a right to grant asylum to U.S. fugitives, the clearest sign to date that the communist government has no intention of extraditing America’s most-wanted woman despite the warming of bilateral relations.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has urged President Barack Obama to demand the return of fugitive Joanne Chesimard before restoring full relations under a historic detente announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro last week.
Chesimard was granted asylum by Fidel Castro after she escaped from the prison where she was serving a sentence for killing a New Jersey state trooper. Christie is mulling a run for president in 2016.
Asked if returning fugitives was open to negotiation, Cuba’s head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press Monday that “every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted … That’s a legitimate right.”
In a letter sent to the White House Friday and made public by his office Sunday, Christie said Cuba’s asylum for Chesimard, who has changed her name to Assata Shakur, was “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.”