WASHINGTON – U.S. and Cuban representatives on Monday here began their first formal talks on law enforcement.
The talks began on Monday morning at the State Department, a department official confirmed to EFE.
“The dialogue will focus on areas of cooperation in law enforcement, including information-sharing mechanisms and fugitives,” the official said, on condition of anonymity.
President Barack Obama in April removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism prepared annually by the State Department.
Cuba had remained on that list year after year since 1982 because it allegedly has welcomed members of the Basque terrorist group ETA, Colombian guerrillas and several fugitives from U.S. justice.
By removing Cuba from the list, Washington certified that the island’s government had not provided support to international terrorism during the previous six months, but it did not withdraw its extradition demands for the U.S. fugitives living there.
The most famous of those fugitives is Joanne Chesimard, who for the past two years has been on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists based on her conviction as an accomplice to the killing of a New Jersey state trooper in 1973.
Chesimard, who changed her name in 1970 to Assata Shakur, was sentenced to life behind bars in 1977, but she managed to escape and, according to the FBI, lives in Cuba.
Another of the fugitives is William “Guillermo” Morales, a Puerto Rican independence extremist who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1979 for manufacturing bombs but managed to flee to Mexico and later to Cuba, according to the FBI’s Web page.
Several U.S. lawmakers of Cuban origin have specifically demanded the extradition of Shakur and Morales and have criticized the Obama administration for not doing more to get Cuba to turn them over.
The meeting on Monday at the State Department is being headed on the U.S. side by Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere Alex Lee and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz.
Heading the Cuban delegation, it is expected that the director for the United States at the Cuban foreign minister, Josefina Vidal, on Tuesday will also participate in Washington in the second meeting of the bilateral Cuba-U.S. commission to move forward on normalizing bilateral relations.