Love and Cuba

Jorge Mas Canosa says a Miami woman tried to smear his reputation and extort millions from him. She says he is the father of her child. Both have sworn they are telling the truth.

Furthermore, the Herald agreed not to attend hearings or depositions in the case in exchange for later having access to transcripts of the proceedings. Those transcripts would first be submitted to the same review as the pleadings before they would be handed over to the Herald.

Despite the elaborate agreement, the Herald ultimately published only two short articles that were buried on inside pages. Bill Grueskin, who was city editor at the time of the first article and is now an editor at the Wall Street Journal, declined to comment on the decision to downplay the story. Too much time had elapsed, he said, and he did not remember the details.

From Beatrice's deposition:
Beatrice: From the beginning of our relationship, it was very clearly stated that no one could know, or should ever know about our relationship, because it will damage his public image, and Cuba will suffer, and it will have a detrimental effect on his political career. That was the basis for the relationship to continue.

Kutner: When was that?
Beatrice: Since 1975 when this relationship started. All the way through.
Kutner: Did you agree to those terms and conditions?
Beatrice: I agreed to those terms and conditions . . .
Kutner: And you complied with that agreement, did you not?
Beatrice: I complied because I knew I'd lose him.
Kutner: And why didn't you want to lose him?
Beatrice: Because I loved him very much.
Kutner: Do you still love him very much today?
Beatrice: Yes, I do.

Kutner: And you have loved him from 1975 through today, 1995, is that correct?

Beatrice: Correct.
Kutner: Without stopping?
Beatrice: Without stopping.

A trim, dapper, dark-haired man of average height, Mas is not physically imposing. Nonetheless, the passion and intensity he brings to Cuban issues lends him near mythic stature among exiles. His counsel is frequently sought by everyone from world leaders pondering realpolitik to newly arrived refugees seeking small favors. His wrath is feared.

After arriving in Miami in 1960, the 21-year-old Mas signed up to fight in the Bay of Pigs invasion. However, the ship he was on turned back without landing, and Mas did not see combat. He later returned to South Florida, where he worked as a milkman and continued to struggle with other exiles to overthrow Castro.

In 1963 Mas was elected to the five-member board of Cuban Representation in Exile (RECE), an anti-Castro group funded by the head of the Bacardi Rum company. According to press reports and confidential FBI files, RECE members, including Mas Canosa, participated in a variety of clandestine anti-Castro operations with the blessing of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

By the Seventies, however, Mas had renounced armed struggle in favor of more conventional power brokering. He also began to concentrate on his personal business interests. With the help of his RECE connections, he built up a multimillion-dollar construction company. Southern Bell and Metro-Dade County were his top customers.

According to her testimony, Beatrice Puig met Mas in 1975, when she was a 25-year-old secretary working at Southern Bell in South Dade. She had recently been promoted, and her new supervisor, Robert Neal Johnson, was in charge of allocating construction contracts. Jorge Mas and his younger brother Ricardo frequently stopped by the office. (In a sworn deposition taken last month as part of a separate lawsuit, Ricardo, who is estranged from Jorge, confirmed that he remembered Beatrice from his visits to Johnson's office.)

The offices of Church & Tower, Mas's construction company, were located not far from the Southern Bell building where Beatrice worked. According to Beatrice's testimony, she and Mas began meeting for lunch and drinks. On Valentine's Day 1975, she recalled, they made love for the first time.

More than twenty years after their first encounter, Beatrice's eyes well up with tears when she recalls the details of her deposition testimony regarding Jorge Mas. A petite, shapely, effervescent woman, she speaks rapidly, her words tumbling together. Her blonde hair is swept up in a loose bun behind her head, and she wears tortoise-shell eyeglasses, thin gold bracelets, and a gold watch to dress up a gray T-shirt worn loosely over white leggings.

She has no receipts to prove that she and Mas ever went out together. No photographs. Her only irrefutable evidence that she ever knew Mas in the Seventies is his signature on her application to become a notary public. Mas, along with her former boss at Southern Bell, attested to her good character. The application, which was returned to Beatrice by the post office, lacks a date, but is postmarked February 20, 1975. It is part of the court file. As are Beatrice's poems, which she has sworn in court she wrote after each meeting with Mas. The poems were written in Spanish and translated to English by a professional translating service.

"Awakening" (2/14/75)
Because I'm feeling this hope
Awakening in my heart
And a tenderness caresses me
Without reason, without cause,
Because I feel the sun shining
And the flowers growing, growing,
And I hear music in the air
And poetry in the soil,
Because I smile for no reason
And I am dreaming constantly,
Because I tremble inside
Whenever you cross my mind,
I know I am going to cry
And suffer for this endeavor,
But since I can not escape it,
I will love you helplessly!

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