For the past 30 years, Black revolutionary Assata Shakur has been under the protection of Fidel Castro and the Cuban government. Now with he thawing of diplomatic relations between the United States and the tiny island nation, there is increasing pressure to deport Shakur for the killing of a New Jersey state trooper during a shootout in 1973. Shakur escaped from a New Jersey prison and after years as a fugitive made it to Cuba in 1984. In addition to Shakur, the United States is also seeking the extradition of Puerto Rican nationalist Guillermo Morales. Morales is wanted for a bombing that occurred at the Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan in 1975.
This past week, President Obama removed Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, paving the way for the reopening of the US embassy in Havana as well as the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C. But what is causing concern among many supporters of Shakur and Morales is a statement that Obama made this week in which he stated “We believe that the strong U.S. interest in the return of these fugitives will be best served by entering into this dialogue with Cuba.”
However, it does seem unlikely that the two will be extradited back to the United States since they were formally granted political asylum in Cuba. But this has not stopped many politicians, including Republican N.J Gov. Chris Christie, from voicing opposition. “It is a national disgrace that this president would even consider normalizing relations while they are harboring a terrorist murderer who belongs in prison in New Jersey,” said Christie.
In an open letter to the world earlier this year, Shakur wrote, “Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the U.S. government’s policy toward people of color.” Shakur referred to herself in the letter as “a 20th-century escaped slave.”
This has not stopped a group of New Jersey members to continue to call for her extradition before normalization of ties with Cuba.
What has been lost on many was the racial and political climate of the time period that seems to be repeating itself. The incidents of police abuse and oppression against people of color have, once again, become a point of national concern bolstering Shakur’s argument and actions. With bad actors in law enforcement using their guns instead of their heads, Blacks’ deaths at the hands of police seem to be occurring on an all too frequent basis.