Cuban spy Juan Pablo Roque's jilted ex-wife won $27 million for his deception

Juan Pablo Roque tiptoes inside the master bedroom of the West Kendall house he shares with his wife, Ana Margarita, and her two children. It's February 23, 1996, and the alarm clock on the nightstand reads 3 a.m. The handsome, olive-skinned 40-year-old Cuban defector has told his wife he's making an unexpected business trip to Key West. His shoes squeak on the tile floor as he goes to grab a vinyl suitcase.

Juan Pablo's rustling wakes up the attractive 35-year-old brunette, who left Havana when she was in first grade. She can make out the silhouette of his broad shoulders and salt-and-pepper crew cut. She motions him to sit next to her. He obliges, leans over, and softly kisses her thin lips.

"JP, you don't love me," Ana Margarita teases him in Spanish.

Ana Margarita Martinez was duped by Cuban spy Juan Pablo Roque, so she sued Fidel Castro's regime.
C. Stiles
Ana Margarita Martinez was duped by Cuban spy Juan Pablo Roque, so she sued Fidel Castro's regime.
Juan Pablo Roque
Juan Pablo Roque

Puzzled, he responds, "Why do you say that?"

"Because you are leaving me all alone," she pouts.

Juan Pablo doesn't reply. He stands and leaves.

That afternoon, a frantic Ana Margarita barges into the master bedroom. All day, she's been dialing Juan Pablo on his cell phone, but the calls go straight to voicemail. When she opens the closet door, her blood drains and she begins to shake. All of Juan Pablo's suits are gone. She opens his drawers. Only his wallet, with all of his credit cards, remains. Where the devil would he go without his wallet and credit cards?

Three days after Juan Pablo's disappearance, local and national news reporters swarm Ana Margarita's front yard. They want answers to her husband's whereabouts. And they're not the only ones. FBI agents have appeared on her doorstep, searching for clues.

"That's when I found out JP was working for the FBI," Ana Margarita would later recall.

The FBI, she is told, has been using her husband to infiltrate a Cuban-American paramilitary group involved in narcotics and firearms trafficking. He also has been providing firsthand information about the activities of Brothers to the Rescue, a Cuban-American activist organization that flew peace missions to the island and helped rescue refugees lost at sea.

The day after Juan Pablo disappears, Cuban MiGs shoot down two Cessna planes belonging to the organization. Four pilots are killed in the attack. The group's president, José Basulto, and two volunteers are the only survivors. Their plane escapes. But the Cuban government claims it has a Brothers to the Rescue pilot in custody. Juan Pablo is a member of the group. "It couldn't be JP," she assures herself.

The truth is far worse. During a CNN newscast live from Havana, Juan Pablo finally reappears. The hunky ex-Cuban Air Force pilot sports a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses Ana Margarita bought him and his precious Rolex. His wedding band is no longer on his finger.

He declares his allegiance to Castro, denounces Brothers to the Rescue as a terrorist cell, and refuses to answer questions about his Miami wife. Asked what he would miss most about the Magic City, Juan Pablo replies, "My Jeep."

It is a rare nippy night in March, and Ana Margarita sits at a table in the live broadcast booth of Spanish-language Radio Mambí's studio on SW Eighth Street near Douglas Road. Her stylish bob haircut is a vibrant shade of auburn-brown, and her violet eye shadow complements the purple blouse and matching scarf that loosely covers her neck.

Fourteen years after her husband's disappearance, Ana Margarita is at the eye of a media storm. Among the headlines dominating news about Cuba is her latest salvo against Fidel Castro and his communist regime. After getting an annulment from Juan Pablo, she sued the Cuban government in 1999, charging it was responsible for her spouse's deceit. It was Juan Pablo's superiors who had ordered him to marry her so he could infiltrate the Cuban exile community. As a result, she had "suffered debilitating emotional and physical trauma," according to the complaint she filed in Miami-Dade circuit court. Castro and his government would be made to pay.

In 2001, Ana Margarita would win by default. The Cuban government never contested the lawsuit. Judge Alan Postman awarded her $27.1 million. But collecting the money hasn't been as easy. In 2005, President George W. Bush ordered she be paid nearly $200,000 from frozen Cuban accounts. Her attorneys also seized a couple of Cuban airplanes hijacked by refugees who sought political asylum in the Keys. But that's all.

Now Ana Margarita is suing eight Miami-based charter companies that book direct flights to Cuba in order to garnish fees paid to a company called Havana Tours, which handles air travel to and from the country. Her lawsuit, filed in Miami-Dade circuit court, claims Havana Tours is indirectly owned by the Cuban government.

Ana Margarita's legal maneuver has some Cuban-American activists questioning her motives. Alvaro Fernandez, a Miami man who runs Cuban affairs website Progreso Weekly, suspects she needs cash. "She has been living off the Cuban-spy-leaving-her-behind story since it happened," he quips. "She's going after money that belongs to the Cuban people. And if she succeeds with her latest gambit, she will be hurting people on both sides of the Florida Straits."

That's because Ira Kurzban, the lawyer representing the charter companies, has ominously proclaimed that if she prevails, the Cuban government would halt all direct flights from the States to the island nation, disrupting travel for hundreds of Cuban-Americans a day wanting to visit relatives.

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These comments are a little off base.  First, U.S. trade history with Cuba needs to be understood.  There has been a restrictive trade embargo against Cuba since 1960 and was actually codified into law in 1992.  The U.S. has long accused Cuba and Castro of human rights violations and other crimes - hence the embargo.  Prior to this woman's husband, the U.S. already accused Cuba of being 6 to 7 million dollars in default to America.  Even today, Americans can only travel to Cuba under certain circumstances such as a reporter for a specific instance or education.  


The embargoes and trade restrictions already implement strict regulations and decrease of trade between the country.  Further, because the U.S. says Cuba owes them 6 to 7 million dollars, all transactions with the government or corporations can only be done in cash, no credit is extended.  

When this woman was awarded her judgment (which I believe was reduced) it was awarded under 1996 anti-terrorist laws which allowed private law suits against terrorists supported by a country.  It is a very common legal theory.  Look at Enron.  If a corporation tell an employee to commit a crime, the corporation is also liable.  Same with the government.  If the chief of police tells an officer to murder random people, then the city can be liable. The money was awarded to this woman with full knowledge she would never actually see it.  


This was a way to punish the Cuban government - who revered Juan Pablo as a hero - for committing a terrorist act on American soil.  Since Juan Pablo could not be extradited, this was a creative solution. She received $194,000 from a frozen account.  Why was this account frozen?  Was it found to be supporting terrorist activity in America?  Why did the Cuban government have $194,000 in an account that the U.S. could freeze and ultimately seize?  Even in America, accounts can't be seized without cause.  


Finally, I question the validity of the fact that private Corporations are being targeted to pay of the Cuban government's debt.  This would be outside the purview of the judgment and the reach of the law.  The only way these entities would be garnished would be if the Cuban government ultimately controlled it.  


So, for those arguing that trade is being affected by this judgment, I ask how?  There is already a long standing embargo.  There is already bad blood, claims of debt owed, and refusal to extend credit.  The whole point of an embargo is to adversely affect the trade and economic growth of a country.  Not to mention the Helms-Burton act that further restricts American Corporations from doing business in Cuba.


Was this woman "awarded" a windfall? Yes.  That's also why it was reduced to 7million.  Will she ever see this money?  No.  The Courts were sending a warning, precedence, stating that if you commit or support you citizens in committing either espionage or a terrorist act on our territory, the spy will not be the only one punished, but we will hit you where it counts - in the wallet.  The Courts saw this as an opportunity to give anti-terrorist laws "teeth" without having to invade a country.  What do you do to a country that wont extradite a criminal, encourages his espionage and murder?  If we invaded every country that did this . . .well, the was a reason why the sun never set on the British empire.  There is also a reason the Brits couldn't hold all that land.  In retrospect of the Iraqi/afghani/iranian/Bush's war, this method seems to make a lot more sense.  No ones sons or daughters, husbands or wives have to die to prove a point/strength this way.


with all this said, I truly believe the embargo has caused more damaged that solutions.  I think its antiquated regulation implemented in the days of the bay of pigs and the cold war.  We over tax trade, force embargoes etc. as punishment for human rights violations.  We restrict travel so our citizens cannot unwittingly boost the economy.  Hell, even the EU has passed a law making the Helms-Burton act illegal. However, saying this woman is crazy, greedy, or affecting trade is short sighted.  This woman was a tool for the Courts to make their statements.  Nothing more.  I'm guessing the majority of that $194,000 went to attorneys fees anyway.  The judges published opinion would not so heavily investigate the legality of the reach of the 1996 anti-terrorist law and later amendments so thoroughly if it wasn't trying to make a point and set precedence.  The judgment also doesn't mention that the ex-wife's initial cause of action was rape and sexual assault.  Because that not important.  Giving teeth to the law is what mattered.  As stated before, the woman was just a tool.

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