New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he wants to ban flights between New Jersey and Cuba until the Caribbean nation returns a fugitive who shot a state trooper.
Christie said in a letter Tuesday to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that no flights should be allowed until Cuba extradites Assata Shakur, who fled to Cuba after she was convicted of killing a State Highway Patrol trooper in 1973.
Christie's letter, which was first reported by NJ.com, is his latest move to show off strong opposition to President Obama's normalization of relations with Cuba—while his poll numbers in the Republican presidential race continue to sink.
Commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba could begin by the end of the year. Aviation officials on both sides held talks late last month, and some airlines like Jet Blue are already running charter flights between the countries.
United Airlines has applied to start flights between Newark's Liberty Airport and Havana, and asked the Port Authority for permission to do so. "We remain very interested in serving Cuba as soon as we are able to do so, and believe United's service would benefit the airport and the region," the airline told NJ.com.
Port Authority Chairman John Degnan told The Associated Press that he was starting an "immediate review" of the proposed flight route.
Born JoAnne Chesimard, Shakur escaped from jail and is believed to have lived in Cuba since 1983. She's on the FBI's most wanted list for domestic terrorists. Supporters say Shakur, a former Black Panther, was fired on first before she shot the trooper.
She happens to be the aunt and godmother of slain rapper Tupac Shakur.
With more than 83,000 Cuban residents, New Jersey has the third-highest Cuban-American population of any state in the country, after Florida and California. Union City—across the Hudson River from Manhattan—is known as "Havana on the Hudson" for its large Cuban population.
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.