U.S. eyes extradition of fugitives living in Cuba

Washington (CNN)The U.S. is aiming to convince the Cuban government to extradite some American criminals currently taking refuge on the island, a U.S. national security spokeswoman said Wednesday evening.

U.S. negotiators are eyeing the return of several American fugitives, like Joanne Chesimard and William Guillermo Morales, as part of new American efforts to improve relations with the Cuban government. The White House recommended this week that Cuba come off the list of countries considered state sponsors of terrorism.
"The return from Cuba of fugitives from U.S. justice is an issue of long-standing concern to the United States that will be addressed in the broader context of normalizing relations," Bernadette Meehan, a National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement. "We believe this is the best method for finally bringing these cases to a successful resolution, and that they are not a bar to rescission of Cuba's state sponsor designation."
    Former Cuban president Fidel Castro granted Chesimard, a convicted murderer wanted by the FBI who is better known as Assata Shakur, political asylum in Cuba, where she has remained ever since escaping from a life sentence in 1979 from a New Jersey prison.
    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a likely presidential candidate, has called on President Barack Obama to demand Chesimard's extradition as part of any restart with Cuba.
    Christie wrote Obama a letter in December, immediately after Obama moved to thaw relations with the island nation, arguing that Chesimard's return would prove that Cuba is "serious about change."
    That's a point Christie returned to on Wednesday at a New Hampshire town hall, where he called for Cuba to "start acting like a civilized country."