What does Castro’s death mean for Assata Shakur?

Assata Shakur - Photo Source: instagram @halieselassie96
Assata Shakur – Photo Source: Instagram @halieselassie96

Former Black Panther Assata Shakur may be adversely affected by the recent death of Cuba’s former leader Fidel Castro.

Shakur explains in her own words what happened and why she currently has political asylum in Cuba: “My name is Assata (‘she who struggles’) Olugbala ( ‘for the people’) Shakur (‘the thankful one’), and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of  government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984. I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I  joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar  Hoover called it “greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and  vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.”

The lines of communication have opened between Cuba and the United States after a vote by the United Nations urged the United States to lift the economic embargo in 2015. As a result of this vote, both countries are now on speaking terms and travel restrictions are being lifted.

The FBI is currently offering a reward of up to $1M for information leading to the arrest of Shakur. She was charged with a murder in 1973. She was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1977 and was sentenced to life in prison. She escaped and now lives in Cuba.

Now that the two countries are communicating, what will they be willing to do to sweeten any deals that may be in the works? Will Shakur be used as a pawn? The campaign #HandsOffAssata has focused on keeping her free. There is a cry for President Obama to grant her a pardon before he leaves office. Raul Castro is currently the leader of Cuba and has been since 2008. What will happen to Assata now that Fidel is gone? Twitter is talking.





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