Goodbye, Obama! NJ State Police slams president on the way out
The superintendent of the State Police had some harsh words a day before President Barack Obama leaves office.
Col. Rick Fuentes says a recent law enforcement pact with Cuba shows "the back of the hand" to law enforcement and their families because the agreement does nothing to return cop-killing and violent fugitives who've found safe harbor in the communist state.
New Jersey's most-wanted fugitive — with a $2 million bounty on her head — is Joanne Chesimard, who was convicted in 1977 of killing State Police officer Werner Foerster on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. Chesimard, a Black Liberation Army radical, was in the car with two other men, including one who shot Foerster with the trooper's own weapon.
Chesimard escaped from the women's prison in Hunterdon County in 1979 and fled to Cuba, where she has lived as a free woman under the name Assata Shakur.
State Police have never given up their demand that she be returned to justice.
But Fuentes on Wednesday said the Obama administration has just made it harder to seek the extradition of Chesimard and other fugitives.
"Their omission from this agreement and from the negotiations-at-large is so glaring as to signal a clear intent by the Obama Administration to ignore these fugitives," Fuentes said in a statement released to the press and posted on their Facebook page.
"By burning the last bridge to this Administration’s opportunity to gain their negotiated return, families who have long suffered the consequences of their terrorist acts and law enforcement everywhere in this country have been shown the back of the hand. An ignominious torch has been passed to the next president."
Fuentes said he was hopeful incoming President Donald Trump might succeed where Obama and other presidents before him failed.
"We approach the next presidential administration with a renewed sense of optimism and moral superiority that justice will prevail."
Fuentes was referring to a memorandum of understanding that the State Department signed Monday with the Cuban Interior Ministry. The agreement provides for the sharing information on international criminal cases and allows for joint investigations. The agreement was criticized by those who've remained opposed to the Obama administration's efforts at normalizing Cold War-era relations with Cuba, fearing that doing so only legitimizes the island nation's oppressive government.
Obama also faced criticism this week for granting clemency to Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was sentenced to 55 years in prison in 1981 for his involvement with a nationalist group that claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings at public buildings in the 1970s and '80s.
Rivera has been called a terrorist, but also a freedom-fighter by Puerto Ricans who have long demanded his release from prison. Critics of the clemency say the 74-year-old remains unrepentant.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.