New Jersey Governor Chris Christie slammed President Barack Obama's decision to liberalize relations with Cuba, saying the U.S. should have demanded that the communist regime hand over a woman convicted for killing a New Jersey cop as part of the deal.
"The president was wrong in not asking for it," said Christie, in a Monday evening interview with a local New Jersey television station. "It was an awful deal and it is typical of this president, unfortunately, in negotiations."
Cuba signaled on Monday that it has no plans to extradite Joanne Chesimard, who Christie called "a cold-blooded cop-killer," or other infamous criminals and suspects living openly in Cuba. "Every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted," the Cuban Foreign Ministry's head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press.
Cheismard, now known as Assata Shakur, was granted asylum in Cuba after escaping from prison, where she was serving a life sentence for killing a New Jersey state trooper in a 1973 gun battle on the New Jersey Turnpike. In Havana, Chesimard lives so openly that her number was listed in the phone book.
On Friday, Christie sent a letter to Obama urging him to make Chesimard's return part of any future negotiations with Cuba. "We have a hostage exchange and that’s what we get in return?" he said Monday. "We for 50 years have demanded that they have free elections, that they open the internet, that they allow political prisoners to be released. None of those things happened. We’re just going to take that on the come, I guess."
The Cuba deal has highlighted early differences between the field of potential GOP presidential candidates. Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, both the sons of Cuba immigrants, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush have spoken out against the decision to end the more than half-century diplomatic freeze with the islands. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, meanwhile, backs ending the trade embargo.