The Pitfalls of Extradition
Cuba: The Pitfalls of Extradition / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on April 27, 2015
Juan Juan Almeida, 23 April 2015 — Havana promised the Bush
administration that it would no longer accept fugitives from American
justice such as Joanne Chesimard.
Politics is the only one of the performing arts in which there are no
surprises. Despite the visible efforts made by Cuba and the United
States to normalize relations and the Cuban government’s recent
agreement to cooperate in resolving cases of U.S. fugitives living on
the island, I question whether Joanne Chessimard (who was granted
political asylum in 1984) or William Guillermo Morales (who also has
asylum) will ever be extradited.
Their extradition would set a precedent that would put pressure on
authorities to hand over others, such Juan Lisímaco Gutiérrez Fischmann
(former husband of Mariela Castro), who have sought refuge in Havana by
claiming political persecution.
It is more likely that, in the interim, Cuba will return those suspected
of involvement of more ordinary crimes such as money laundering,
counterfeiting, and insurance, credit card and/or Medicare fraud.
Extradition is a judicial tool that can be described as being either
“active,” such as when one country formally requests another country
hand over a certain individual, or “passive,” as when a country makes
the request to a point of contact (i.e., a human being).
In other countries it is handled in different ways but in Cuba a
“passive” extradition request is made through diplomatic channels. After
being reviewed, it is passed on to the executive branch. Since there is
no separation of powers in Cuba, the judicial branch is then ordered to
process and resolve the case.
We saw the most recent example of an active deportation in 2004 when an
Argentine businessman with Mexican citizenship, Carlos Agustín Ahumada
Kurtz, was detained in a house in Nuevo Vedado and later deported from
Cuba after an extradition request was made by the Mexican Ministry of
A very different case was that of Robert Vesco. A Cuban judge ordered
his extradition but the executive branch, in the person of Fidel Castro,
refused to turn him over, citing risks to national security, although
there were some who argued the issue had more to do with “family assets.”
Cuba does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. but that does not
mean a person cannot be extradited. Herein lies a useful tool which the
Cuban government uses. According to international law, in the absence of
a treaty, the laws of the country to which the claim is submitted
determine whether a person can be handed over or not.
William Guillermo Morales fell victim to his own bomb.* The other
subterfuges were hidden in the legal procedure itself. As mentioned
earlier, the process begins with a diplomatic memorandum requesting the
provisional detention of the person in question for the purpose of
extradition. But it has to meet certain requirements. The requesting
government has to provide data identifying the individual to be
detained. It must also show proof of an arrest warrant, commit to
formalize the extradition request by a specified date, agree to
reciprocity and acknowledge that the case is in fact an emergency situation.
I should point out that “an emergency situation” is taken to mean the
individual being sought poses a flight risk from the country being
Given their status as political refugees, might one think that Joanne
Chessimard and William Guillermo Morales would be strongly motivated to
flee the island? Perhaps, but where would they go? Venezuela is not an
option. President Maduro has as many chromosomes as a horse (Equus
asinus). The last thing he wants is a problem like this.
Those with political refugee status in Cuba know that some future
negotiated agreement might subject them to cross-border detention (or
adduction). More than a possibility, for them extradition is a distant,
dream-like vision of reality.
*Translator’s note: A member of the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas Liberacion
Nacional), an organization advocating for Puerto Rican independence
through acts of violence. On July 12, 1978, Morales was working on a
bomb at a house in East Elmhurst, New York, when it exploded. Morales
was severely injured, taken to a hospital and was later transferred to
the Bellevue Hospital prison ward. Morales escaped from Bellevue and
fled to Mexico, where he was captured in May, 1983. He was eventually
handed over to Cuban authorities and is believed to still be in that
Source: Cuba: The Pitfalls of Extradition / Juan Juan Almeida |
Translating Cuba –