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Udall headed to Cuba, calls for Charlie Hill’s extradition

Sen. Tom Udall is leading a congressional delegation to Cuba on Saturday to meet with top officials from the isolated communist country and discuss how the U.S. and Cuba can create more opportunities for trade and tourism.

The trip during Congress’ week-long Memorial Day recess comes as President Barack Obama is loosening longstanding restrictions on U.S. travel, commerce and financial activities with Cuba. Udall, a New Mexico Democrat who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also called yesterday for the extradition of Charlie Hill, a fugitive in Cuba who is wanted in the murder of New Mexico State Police officer and the hijacking of a commercial airplane in the 1970s.

“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.

State Department officials last month confirmed that they are negotiating for the extradition of several fugitives in Cuba wanted for serious crimes in the U.S. but would not confirm that Hill is one of them.

Also accompanying Udall on the Cuban trip are Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva D-Ariz. and Rep. John Larson, D-Conn. The group “will meet with Cuban and U.S. State Department officials, Cuban business owners and others to discuss ways the United States can further open relations with Cuba through trade and tourism and by expanding opportunities for cultural exchange between American and Cuban citizens,” according to Udall’s office.

Meetings will cover opening markets for Cuban and U.S. farmers; opportunities for U.S. companies to participate in the expansion of telecommunications infrastructure; expanding eco-tourism; and marine conservation efforts. The delegation will also meet with curators of the 12th Havana Biennial program, which will feature artists from around the world – including Taos-based artist Agnes Chavez.

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