New York Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) said the extradition of a cop killer given political asylum by Fidel Castro might not be in the best political interests of the new relationship with Cuba.
Joanne Chesimard was serving a life sentence for the execution-style murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973. She escaped from prison in 1979 and sufficed in Cuba in 1984, where she is believed to still be living.
Chesimard was put on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list last year. A reward of up to $1 million is offered for information leading to her capture. The state is offering additional money.
Colonel Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said in a statement that they “continue to work closely with the FBI towards the capture” of Chesimard.
“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,” Fuentes said. “We stand by the reward money and hope that the total of two million dollars will prompt fresh information in the light of this altered international relationship.”
Rangel told CNN that the extradition of Chesimard is “remotely possible.”
“You know, we’re fighting a war of terrorism and I have no idea what priority she would have. I know she’s wanted by the state of New Jersey, but it’s abundantly clear that this is an international appreciation of our country. It’s one of the greatest things that’s happened in recent history. The people of Cuba and the people of America love each other notwithstanding our serious government conflicts,” Rangel said.
“Quite frankly, I haven’t heard her name come up in decades. Nor did we even know about the Cuban spy that they had arrested and been holding for 20 years.”
When it was pointed out that her name was brought up recently — on the Most Wanted Terrorists list — the congressman replied, “Well, what we’re talking about is what’s in the best interest of the people of the United States from a foreign policy point of view and I think you would agree with me that on that radar screen her name doesn’t even come up.”
“And so quite frankly this is the most historic thing that’s happened in this hemisphere. We can talk about really getting at ISIS and terrorists, we can talk about communicating with people who love us and we love them and before I left Havana last night, a lady grabbed me and I never felt more proud of being American and she said, ‘Congressman, do you know that there are two reasons why Cubans love America so much?’ I said, ‘No, what are they?’ She said, ‘United States movies and all the other great reasons.’ Now, you know you have to feel good about that. And whether in Miami or Havana you feel like that nation is going forward.”
After the next interview question, Rangel referred to the cop killer as “this other lady’s name.”
“I’ve been in Congress over 40 years, we’ve been involved with this over 50 years. You’re the first person that has actually brought her name up to me and so there’s no question that there are even a lot of older Cubans, some that are located in Florida, that have emotional ties,” he said.
“Senator Rubio and a couple of other politicians, but the president of the United States has to decide what is good for the people of the United States of America. And with all the serious crises that we have, I don’t think those voices that are against this policy will get much coverage.”