White House: Obama Discussed Exiled Fugitives With Cuban Officials During Recent Trip

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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President Obama broached a topic of U.S. fugitives hiding in Cuba during his recent trip to the island nation, White House press secretary Joshua Earnest said Monday.

“The president did have an opportunity in the course of his conversations to make clear that the kind of work that’s currently being done in law enforcement channels to try and coordinate the return of some of these fugitives is a priority of his,” Earnest told reporters.

The White House had declined prior to Obama’s trip to Cuba last week to comment on whether he would bring up the fugitive issue. The communist country hosts 70 fugitives, including convicted cop killer Assata Shakur.

A former Black Panther and member of the Black Liberation Army, Shakur, who is also known as JoAnne Chesimard, fled to Cuba in 1984 after escaping a New Jersey prison. She had been incarcerated since 1979 after being convicted of murder in the 1973 execution-style killing of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foester.

Shakur, who was granted political asylum by the Castro regime, has become a cause celebre for many leftist activists, including the Black Lives Matter movement.

In 2013, the FBI placed her on its Most Wanted Terrorist List.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wrote an op-ed last week calling on Obama to press the Cuban government for Shakur’s return.

Earnest did not go into detail on whether Obama specifically discussed Shakur or what he said during his discussions with Cuban officials.

He merely said that Obama made the U.S.’s stance “clear at the highest levels of the Cuban government.”

“We’re going to continue to push for those kinds of issues to be resolved because they’re a genuine irritant in our relationship,” Earnest added.

Obama did not publicly mention Shakur or the fugitive issue during his public remarks during last week’s trip.

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