News outlets in the United States have published speculative reports over the past couple of days suggesting Cuba is willing to exchange Assata Shakur in a prison swap deal with the U.S.
Assata Shakur, formerly called Joanne Chesimard, is a Queens-born activist who belonged to the Black Liberation Army.
She escaped prison two years after being convicted of the alleged murder of state trooper Werner Foerster in 1977 during a gunfight – a crime she has always denied.
In the mid-1980s, then Cuban President Fidel Castro granted her asylum on the island.
Shortly after Washington announced its normalization of relations with Cuba, state authorities in New Jersey expressed their hope that Havana would extradite the former Black Panther to U.S. soil.
"We view any changes in relations with Cuba as an opportunity to bring her back to the United States to finish her sentence for the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973,” said Col. Rick Fuentes, head of the state’s largest law enforcement agency.
However, the Cuban government has repeatedly refused to extradite the aunt of Tupac Shakur, angering U.S. conservatives.
In 2014 following the warming of relations between both countries, the Cuban foreign ministry’s head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal, told the Associated Press that “Every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted.”
In March 2015, Cuba's Deputy Director for American Affairs, Gustavo Machin, said such a move is completely "off the table"
Cuba and the U.S. are currently negotiating a prisoner swap deal as part of the normalization of relations but Shakur’s name has not been mentioned and no official source has confirmed the rumors.
But despite this, news outlets like New York Post and NBC news have rushed to suggest the former Black Panther will be included in a potential prisoner swap.