By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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By Kyle Swenson
The questions began shortly before 9:00 that morning and continued for ten hours, ending in the early evening. The three opposing lawyers took turns grilling the woman before them, probing her private life, searching for inconsistencies. She sat calmly through it all, gazing every once and awhile out the window at the panoramic view of the city below, at the undulating river as it nudged its way past rundown boat yards and downtown high-rises on its way into Biscayne Bay. This was the end of her affair, her alleged romance with the man she called "George" and whom world leaders knew as Jorge Mas Canosa.
Every word carried her farther away from a dream she had cherished. Mas was the man who was going to save Cuba, she explained. And she was the woman who had loved and protected him. For twenty years she had been available whenever he needed her, she said, swearing under oath that her statements were true. The proof, she said, was her ten-year-old son. According to her testimony, Mas is his father.
She recounted the details of her alleged two-decade liaison with the leader of Miami's Cuban exile community -- when they met, where they made love, how they grew apart after her son was conceived. She recalled years of sheltering Mas from gossip, of hiding her affair from her family and her closest friends, of lying on public documents. She detailed the efforts she made to persuade Mas to assume his paternal responsibilities and described the frustration that finally led her to file a paternity lawsuit against him in November 1994.
That lawsuit, upon which this story is wholly based, is a public record. The woman's full name, as well as the names of her children and ex-husband and his family, are also public record. However, New Times has chosen to use pseudonyms for the woman and her extended family in an effort to protect the children from embarrassment. For the purposes of this article, the woman will be known as Beatrice Puig, her sons as Adam and Peter, her ex-husband as David, and her ex-husband's son as Marcos. All other characters in this article are identified by their true names. Jorge Mas Canosa did not return repeated calls to his office and to the Cuban American National Foundation.
From Beatrice's deposition:
Beatrice: I started trying to make him take the DNA test, which he promised, and then he refused and he kept talking only about his privacy and his prestige and didn't care about Peter's life or future or identity or anything else.
Maurice Kutner, attorney for Mas: When did you make the decision to tell Peter about Mas?
Beatrice: I made that decision the day he was born. I wanted to let him know who his real father is, and I was stopped all the way. I was sold on the idea that it would not be the best thing, to wait, to sort things out. To think about Cuba.
Mas has denied the relationship ever occurred. Moreover, he has publicly accused the 46-year-old businesswoman of being a Communist agent working on behalf of Fidel Castro to destroy his credibility.
The deposition, conducted July 12, 1995, represented the first and perhaps only time that Beatrice would be able to tell her story. Even before she filed her lawsuit, a circuit court judge slapped her with a gag order forbidding her from discussing with anyone her belief that Mas was Peter's father. That gag order remains in effect.
It was the first of many unusual twists the paternity case would take as it has played out in Judge Eugene Fierro's courtroom in the Dade County Courthouse. There is, for example, the intriguing role of the guardian ad litem, appointed by Fierro to represent Peter and his brother Adam in the proceedings. The guardian was simultaneously defending himself against a paternity claim in Broward County. Even more curious is the position taken by Beatrice's ex-husband, a convicted cocaine trafficker who joined the lawsuit on Mas's side after receiving a $9000 loan from Mas's bodyguard.
Although the local and national media have extensively chronicled Mas's frequent forays into national politics and international relations, the paternity case has escaped detailed scrutiny. This may have been due less to a lack of interest than to the unusual delicacy with which the case has been treated by the court. In addition to being affected by a sweeping gag order, the lawsuit has been notable because at one time all pleadings were sealed.
The judge's order to seal documents was eventually challenged by lawyers for the Miami Herald, and the newspaper gained access to the court file in June 1995, but only after it acceded to certain unusual conditions.
Before a Herald reporter could examine the file, for example, all four attorneys involved in the case were instructed by Judge Fierro to review the pleadings and submit them to a "test." They had to determine whether the documents contained information that would identify the children or their parents or that would otherwise not be in the "best interest" of the children. In cases where the documents were deemed to have failed the test, they were to be given to the Herald's attorney for safekeeping. The attorney was not permitted to show the documents to any Herald reporter unless those involved in the case gave their unanimous approval to release the documents or unless Judge Fierro granted permission.