Monday, October 31, 2016

Unintended consequences - the opening between the United States and Cuba and its impact on fugitives

For a variety of reasons, relations between the United States and Cuba were dissolved during the early 1960s, presenting certain Americans with an opportunity.

Which Americans?

Those who were guilty of various crimes.

After all, if you were facing prison in the United States, what better place to go than Cuba? It's not like Castro was going to send you back to Kennedy-Nixon land - especially if your crimes could be classified as political in nature.

One of the most famous Cuban exiles was Eldridge Cleaver, who fled to Cuba in 1968. Eventually he left Cuba for Algeria, then for France, then for the United States. By 1984, he was endorsing the same Ronald Reagan who revoked his parole in 1968. Time flies.

And time flies in other ways also. In many portions of Florida, there have been people who dreamed that once Fidel Castro left office, the Cuban exiles in Miami would be welcomed back to Cuba with open arms. In reality, Fidel Castro was replaced by Raul Castro, and the Cubans who remained probably don't want much to do with the "McDonalds breath" Americans who claim they are Cuban. (Well, except for remittances. Everyone, from Mexico to the Philippines, loves remittances from Americans.)

But the Cuban Cubans will see a lot more of the McDonalds breath Americans - and all sorts of other Americans. The decades-old wall between Cuba and the United States is being torn down, and Americans are flocking to Cuba.

But as they flock to Cuba, the New Jersey State Police is asking for a little favor.

Be careful and watch for the following individuals wanted by the FBI for terrorism-related crimes against U.S. citizens...

The State Police then lists five people - Joanne Chesimard, Cheri Laverne Dalton, Charles 'Charlie' Hill, William Guillermo, and Victor Manuel Gerena - all of whom have been accused of violent crimes, and all of whom are assumed to be living in Cuba. Here's Chesimard's story, according to the New Jersey State Police:

Joanne Chesimard

(age 68) was convicted of murdering one New Jersey state trooper and wounding another in 1973. Sentenced to life plus 26-33 years, she escaped from a US prison in 1979 and has been residing in Cuba since the mid 1980s.


But Chesimard doesn't go by that name any more. She now goes by the name Assata Shakur. And whatever name she goes by, it's unlikely that American tourist identification will send her back to the United States:

Both countries have inherent interests, ethical and not so ethical, in allowing Shakur to die of natural causes in Havana.

The first is practical: If the U.S. makes a serious request for Shakur, Cuba will undoubtedly counter with a request of its own for Luis Posada Carriles. The 86-year-old, who has long ties to the CIA and its covert activities in Latin America, is now living out his old age in Miami....

Bringing Shakur to the U.S. may satisfy a whole lot of folks who are outraged because a convicted cop killer is free, but she has little intelligence value to the American government. Releasing Posada Carriles to the Cubans, however, is a whole different story: The guy has had his hands in everything from the Bay of Pigs to the Contra wars.

Even if there is a post-Castro regime change in Cuba, it's uncertain whether the situation would change enough to warrant extradition. After all, when Cleaver did return to the United States, he only spent a few months incarcerated. (Soul on the fast track.)

But Shakur/Chesimard is not the only person in Cuba who has run afoul of U.S. law. Some number of exiles are still in Cuba, some of whom arrived by plane. Back in the pre-9/11 days of the 1960s and 1970s, a number of aircraft were induced by hijackers to change their assigned route and go to Havana instead.

To live in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Latner says, was to have lived in the heyday of airline hijacking to Cuba. It was so common that one publication carried a photo of a flight attendant with the caption, “Coffee, tea or — Castro?”

(Wikipedia has a list of U.S.-Cuba related hijackings.)

Of course, there are many other unintended consequences that are occurring as a result of the opening between the two countries. One example - all the dumb Americans who do stupid stuff here and elsewhere can now do it in Cuba. Although in at least one case, it was a Canadian (who has been able to travel to Cuba at any time) who did something dumb.

Chris Hughes’ recent trip to Cuba was supposed to be yet another fun travel experience where he could see the local culture and capture some cool drone footage. But thanks to that drone, he instead spent 13 days in solitary confinement in a Cuban jail.

But Canada doesn't have the monopoly on stupid.

A 70-year-old Cuban-American who has lived in the United States for 40 years was arrested in Cuba for mounting a public Christmas display featuring a giant inflatable Santa Claus and other seasonal characters.

His attempt to escape prosecution probably didn't go over so well.

“I asked [the state police] to consider the spiritual benefits of this sort of event for children, but they did not listen and threatened me with police action if I did not comply,” he added.

Uh, sir, an officially atheist state isn't going to rush to offer "spiritual benefits."

(McDonalds breath.)
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