May 21, 2015

Udall heading to Cuba for trade trip, calls for fugitive’s extradition

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U.S. Sen. Tom Udall is headed to Cuba to discuss trade and tourism issues.

Photo Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory via  cc

Senate Tom Udall Photo Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory cc

“Opening up relations with Cuba will present new opportunities for trade and tourism for New Mexicans, and I’m proud to continue working to build business and cultural ties between our countries,” Udall said in a statement sent to media on Thursday. “I look forward to engaging in a collaborative dialogue this weekend with Cuban and U.S. officials, Cuban business owners and citizens to explore how we can best develop a 21st century relationship with Cuba that boosts economic growth and brings freedom and openness to Cubans.”

It is the latest example of relations between the two nations thawing in recent years.

Also taking place during the trip is the Havana Biennial where artists from both countries will participate, including an artist from Taos.

According to Wichita State University, the Havana Biennial is “the first time in the history of the Havana Biennial in which a Cuban and U.S. curator have closely worked together on a project.”

Udall is one of four members of Congress who will be making the trip. All are Democrats. Udall will be joined by U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and U.S. Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona and John Larson of Connecticut.

Another topic was on Udall’s mind ahead of the trip, however. Udall also called for the extradition of Charlie Hill, a fugitive wanted for the killing of a New Mexico state police officer. After the officer was killed, Hill and two others hijacked a plane and flew to Cuba. Hill has remained there since then; the other two have since died.

The Albuquerque Journal first reported on Udall’s trip and his call for the extradition of Hill from the isolated country that has been at-odds with the United States for decades. The paper quoted Udall speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a committee on which Udall sits.

“I’d like to express my support for the extradition of Charlie Hill,” Udall told the panel. “The extradition of criminals is an important part of any normal relations between countries.”Udall said Hill “must be brought to justice.”

“I know the State Department shares this objective and I hope we can continue to make this a priority until we get it done,” Udall said.

Recently, Hill opened the door to returning to the United States where he would face trial for the 1971 killing of State Police Officer Robert Rosenbloom, as well as charges related to the hijacking of the airplane.

Various politicians representing New Mexico have called for Hill’s extradition, most recently Gov. Susana Martinez late in 2014.

With improved relations between the United States and Cuba, the calls to extradite Hill to face trial are only growing.