In final days, Obama administration signs law enforcement pact with Cuba

WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department signed a new agreement on law enforcement cooperation with Cuba on Monday, seeking to further deepen ties with the communist island just four days before the end of the Obama administration.

The agreement outlines U.S.-Cuban cooperation on a wide range of criminal and security-related issues, including terrorism, narcotics, cyber-security, immigration, money laundering, smuggling and human trafficking.

Notably, the agreement did not include a return of U.S. fugitives that Cuba has harbored, including New Jersey cop killers, Black Panther hijackers and Puerto Rican terrorists. Cuba's continued protection of those fugitives has been a major source of congressional opposition to President Obama's Cuban policy.

The State Department had previously confirmed that the return of those fugitives was part of the talks with Cuba, but State Department officials did not return requests for comment Monday, a federal holiday in the United States.

The agreement was signed by the de facto U.S. ambassador in Havana, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, and the Cuban minister of the Interior, Julio César Gandarilla. Also present: Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, the architect of Obama's policy restoring diplomatic ties to Cuba in 2014 after a six-decade freeze.

The agreement comes just a few days after the Department of Homeland Security announced that it has ended the two-decade-old "wet-foot/dry foot" policy, meaning Cubans who safely reach U.S. soil will no longer be granted legal status.

The two nations have signed more than a dozen other agreements over two years on issues like health, medical research, agriculture, environmental cooperation, marine protected areas, civil aviation, and direct transportation of mail.

The explicit goal of all those agreements is to make it as difficult as possible for the incoming Trump administration to unwind the Obama policy.

"I think what we were trying to do is to create as much momentum for the policy so as to make it irreversible, to enlist as many stakeholders as we could in the policy so as to make it irreversible," Rhodes told reporters last month. "At the end of the day, we get eight years and we’ll be done on January 20th, and the new administration can make their own decisions about whether they want to try to reverse aspects of our policy."