Her pursuit of lucrative book and movie deals and a $27 million payoff from the Cuban government has given Ana Margarita's critics grist to question whether she really "suffered debilitating emotional and physical trauma" because of her sham marriage.

Progreso Weekly's Alvaro Fernandez says it is unfair that the people of Cuba should have to pay because a Cuban spy was good at doing his job. "Does that mean that the people in foreign countries duped by American spies are entitled to judgments against the United States?" he asks. "Maybe she should be the one paying the Cuban government for the time she got to spend with Richard Gere's Cuban double."

Ana Margarita scoffs at Fernandez's remarks. "Portraying me as a greedy fame seeker is so far off," she says. "This ordeal has been a mission for me."

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

Ira Kurzban, a short man with thinning wavy hair, wears a snazzy navy blue pinstripe suit as he stands at the podium facing federal Judge Federico Moreno. The attorney representing the eight charter companies that fly to the communist island, Kurzban argues that Ana Margarita's lawsuit should be heard by a federal, not a state, court.

The stakes are high as Kurzban prepares to make his case. Since Ana Margarita's lawyers filed for a garnishment order in state court this past February 19, the charter companies have voluntarily set aside the $4 million to $5 million they owe Havana Tours.

And the pot is growing. An average of 60 flights a week depart from Miami, New York, and New Jersey to Havana and four other cities in Cuba, according to Armando Garcia, president of charter company Marazul Tours. Today, individual ticket prices range from $300 to $600, but the rates fluctuate depending on the travel season. Since last April, when President Barack Obama lifted the tougher travel restrictions enacted by George W. Bush, approximately 210,000 Cuban-Americans have flown to the island, Garcia says. "If the numbers continue increasing the way they have, we could see more than 300,000 Cuban-Americans visiting Cuba this year."

The charter companies, he explains, pay Havana Tours to obtain landing permits from the Institute of Civil Aeronautics of Cuba and other airport-related services such as refueling planes, handling luggage, and processing passengers.

"I've seen Ana Margarita on television news reports claiming that she doesn't want to stop direct flights to Cuba," Garcia says. "That is absurd. If we can't pay Havana Tours, the flights will be paralyzed. She is trying to obtain money that has nothing to do with her case."

That argument is at the heart of Kurzban's pleading. "This case has the potential of shutting down travel to Cuba," he intones. "This action will force my clients out of business. And it is a matter of federal law that she needs a court order before granting the garnishments." He adds that Havana Tours is not directly owned by Cuba, so under U.S. law, the company cannot be treated as an agent or entity of that state.

Ana Margarita, dressed in a black business suit, black stockings, and black heels, sits next to her attorneys at a table to the left of Kurzban. Some of the charter company owners sit behind her. They don't utter a word. Her lawyer Robert Hartley counters that Judge Moreno has no jurisdiction in the case because the charter companies are Florida corporations and the case should remain in state court, which had initially ruled in his client's favor. He adds that he will prove "Havana Tours is an alter ego, a conduit for the Cuban government."

Just how high the stakes are becomes clear when Kurzban informs the judge that the U.S. government might also intervene in the case, and a lawyer from the Justice Department makes his presence in the courtroom known. The DOJ special counsel, Anthony Coppolino, asks Moreno to postpone the hearing so that the federal government can analyze the ramifications of Ana Margarita's case. "With the possible disruption of flights to Cuba, it could affect U.S. policy toward Cuba," Coppolino says. "It is the policy of the U.S. government to allow citizens to visit relatives in Cuba."

Moreno obliges Coppolino's request and postpones the hearing until early April. As the charter company owners file out of the courtroom, none wants to discuss Ana Margarita. One of them, an elderly Cuban lady with red hair pulled into a ponytail, says, "I have nothing against her. She is well within her rights to do what she is doing."

Kurzban only says, "We are very concerned about resolving this issue as quickly as possible."

Outside the federal courthouse, Ana Margarita lets out an emphatic sigh of relief. Sasha, who was at the hearing to lend support, hugs her mother. "The brain training has really helped me a lot," Ana Margarita says. "Otherwise, I'd be in shambles right now. All this publicity can be so draining."

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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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