WASHINGTON—A little-noticed passage in two State Department reports says Havana has said that it no longer will provide safe haven to U.S. fugitives who enter Cuba, a promise that the Castro government has met twice since September.
The promise and deportations amount to a rare sign of cooperation by Havana. Some 70 U.S. fugitives are thought to be living in Cuba, including Joanne Chesimard, convicted in the 1973 murder of a New Jersey state trooper.
Cuba has refused to return them, generally arguing that the U.S. charges against them are "political." Those refusals were among the reasons the State Department has cited for including Cuba in its list of nations that support international terrorism.
But passages in the State Department's 2005 and 2006 Country Reports on Terrorism—the last one released April 30—that went largely unnoticed until now said Cuba "has stated that it will no longer provide safe haven to new U.S. fugitives who may enter Cuba."
State Department spokesmen declined comment on who made the promise, when and whether it involved any U.S. counter-promise. Havana has long demanded the return of five convicted Cuban spies jailed in Florida.
Such Cuban acts of cooperation have come under more scrutiny since Raul Castro took over the reins of power after his brother, Fidel, fell ill last summer. However, the State Department's 2005 report on terrorism, the first to include the wording on the end of safe haven, was issued before the ailment was announced July 31.
State Department officials noted that Cuba's history of on-and-off collaboration makes it hard to know whether Havana's promise signals a new stance.
"We have no way of knowing for sure what the Cuban government is trying to accomplish, if anything," said Eric Watnik, a spokesman for the State Department.
Cuba wants the United States to extradite anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela. A U.S. judge recently dropped U.S. immigration-fraud charges against Posada, who's accused in Venezuela of masterminding the bombing of a Cuban jetliner in 1976 that killed 73 people.
Cuba has returned at least two U.S. fugitives since the promise first appeared in the State Department report.
The first, according to the 2006 report, was a South Florida man who's accused of kidnapping his son, stealing a plane at an airport in the Florida Keys and flying to Cuba last September. The son later was returned to his mother in Mexico and the father was put on a plane to Miami, where he's facing prosecution.
In April, Havana returned Joseph Adjmi, a fugitive sentenced to 10 years in U.S. prison for mail fraud in 1963, to Florida.
Earlier this year Cuba expelled Luis Hernando Gomez-Bustamante, whom Colombia accuses of being a leader of the Norte del Valle cartel, to Bogota. Colombia then extradited him to the United States.