On December 17, 2014 President Barack Obama announced the Cuban trade embargo lifted. And what a game changer it was, considering it would mark new beginnings with the island.
“Neither the American nor the Cuban people are well-served by a rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born,” said Obama in his White House speech on Wednesday. “It’s time for a new approach.”
Reports say that Alan Gross, a USAID worker who had been imprisoned in Cuba for five years on accusations of espionage exchange, was released. In exchange, the U.S. freed the three remaining members of the Cuban Five, Cuban citizens who were convicted of spying in Miami circa 2001. In addition, Cuba also released 53 political prisoners, including a “valuable” U.S. spy, of Cuban descent.
With the aforementioned in mind, the question begs: What now of Assata Shakur? Née JoAnne Deborah Byron, Shakur was a member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army who fled to Cuba after she escaped a U.S. prison in 1979. Fidel Castro granted her political asylum in 1984 and she’s been living in refuge since.
Shakur was recently listed as a “domestic terrorist” and one of 10 most dangerous people on earth, making her the first woman on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list.
The FBI and the New Jersey police are offering a $2 million reward for her capture, which the police hope will be more likely with normalization of relations with Cuba. But would Cuba really extradite Assata Shakur to the U.S.? Currently, the U.S. and Cuba have no extradition agreement. But even if they did, Havana, which disagrees with her charges and conviction, would not be obligated to give up Assata.
While theGrio made several attempts to contact Lennox S. Hinds, Assata Shakur’s longtime lawyer, he could not be reached for comment. However, in a 2013 interview on Democracy Now!, Hinds noted the Cuban government granted Assata Shakur political asylum based on a firm grounding in international law, namely the Refugee Convention. There are precedents for U.S.-friendly nations that have refused to extradite American fugitives who have fled the U.S.
As TheGrio so perfectly stated, while “the President Obama rights old wrongs and casts off anachronistic and failed Cold War policies, the last thing the federal government should want to do is perpetuate the sordid legacy of COINTELPRO [illegal FBI program designed to destroy social justice movements], kangaroo trials, and Hoover’s quest to neutralize black activist leadership, including Assata Shakur.