Cuba agrees to 'dialogue' over fugitives in country
Updated: 2015-04-18 08:14
Cuba has agreed to work on resolving the cases of United States' fugitives on the island as part of the effort to normalize relations between the two nations, US President Barack Obama told lawmakers when he made the case for removing the former Cold War foe from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
In a message to Congress on Wednesday, Obama acknowledged that Cuba had provided housing, food ration books and medical care to some of the fugitives wanted by the US to stand trial or serve sentences on serious charges. However, he argued that Havana has been more cooperative with the United States in some recent cases, returning two fugitives in 2011 and two more in 2013.
"Cuba has agreed to enter into a law enforcement dialogue with the United States that will include discussions with the aim of resolving outstanding fugitive cases," Obama wrote.
"We believe that the strong US interest in the return of these fugitives will be best served by entering into this dialogue with Cuba."
Obama's move to remove Cuba from the terror list has been met with some opposition over the fugitives. New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and the state's Republican governor, Chris Christie, have both maintained that the terror designation should remain, especially while refusing to return Joanne Chesimard.
Chesimard has lived in Cuba since escaping prison after her 1977 conviction for killing a New Jersey state trooper.
"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," Christie said at a town-hall meeting in New Hampshire on Wednesday.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest rejected the notion that whether Cuba returns US fugitives should be related to the decision to remove the country from the terror list.
Associated Press in Washington