Cuba agrees to return fugitive dad, wife, and two kids to US (+video)
Cuba is not granting asylum to a Florida couple charged with kidnapping their two kids, after a Louisiana judge ended parental rights. The 2000 Elian Gonzalez case may have played a role.
The Cuban government announced on Tuesday that it would return two young American boys and their parents to the US, where the father is wanted on charges of kidnapping the children last week before sailing with them and his wife on a small boat from Florida to Cuba.Skip to next paragraph
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After two days of talks between US and Cuban officials, the government in Havana announced that the parents, Joshua and Sharyn Hakken, and their two sons would be sent back to Florida where an extensive manhunt had been mounted.
The return agreement is unusual but not unprecedented.
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Despite an ongoing 50-year US economic embargo and no significant bilateral treaties, the two countries have cooperated in recent years in the return of a few international fugitives.
A range of legal and international affairs experts suggested earlier on Tuesday that any request by the parents for asylum in Cuba would likely be rejected.
The alleged abduction of the boys, Chase, age 2, and Cole, age 4, came shortly after a judge in Louisiana terminated the couple’s parental rights, according to police.
Police say the Hakkens somehow discovered that the court had awarded custody to the boys' maternal grandparents, who live near Tampa, Fla.
Last Wednesday, Hakken broke into the house, bound his mother-in-law, and left with the boys still in their pajamas, police said. He drove his mother-in-law’s car a few blocks and then changed vehicles.
Hakken, his wife, and the two boys then boarded a sailboat and headed into the Gulf of Mexico. A manhunt and statewide missing-child alert ensued, but the trail went cold – until they turned up aboard their 25-foot sailboat “Salty” at the Hemingway Marina in Havana.
The Hakkens apparently fled to Cuba hoping to either remain anonymous in the Caribbean yachting community or to appeal to the Castro government for refuge.
The circumstances of their surreptitious departure from the US cast a significant cloud over their case, experts said.