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.
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."