Ana Margarita Martinez married Juan Pablo Roque on April Fool's Day, 1995. At the time of their Miami wedding, Martinez was 35, a twice-divorced Cuban-exile mother who thought she had finally met Senor Right. Roque was a hunky, sensitive improvement over the losers she says she had married before. He looked more like Richard Gere than Richard Gere does; he held a steady job, was warm to Martinez' two young kids, washed the dishes and never hit her. And he was a hero--a Cuban air force pilot who three years earlier had bolted Fidel Castro's communist dictatorship.
The '90s kind of guy turned out to be a '90s kind of spy. Roque was a Castro agent, and his marriage to Martinez was simply a page from his espionage manual. On Feb. 23, 1996, Roque left Martinez, and three days later he surfaced in Cuba. That was right after Castro's air force, using intelligence gathered in part by Roque, shot down two small unarmed planes off Havana, killing four anti-Castro Cuban-exile activists (from the group Brothers to the Rescue) who were piloting them. Watching TV, Martinez was stunned to see Roque tell a reporter that what he missed most back in the U.S. was "my Jeep Cherokee."
That remark could cost Castro almost $30 million. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned--or raped, as Martinez claimed in the suit she filed two years ago. It charged not only Roque but also the Cuban government with committing sexual battery against her each time she and Roque had intercourse. The suit was widely regarded as a symbolic gesture--until a Miami circuit-court judge this year awarded Martinez $27.2 million, to be garnished from Cuban assets frozen in the U.S. under the rules of the economic embargo. Locating and collecting that dough will be hard and may require an O.K. from the White House. But Martinez's lawyers were confident enough last week to begin pushing banks like J.P. Morgan Chase to cough it up. The banks have yet to reply.
Martinez's award would mark another counterattack by foes of Castro, who fear that U.S. public opinion has turned against the embargo and are finding new ways to attack him. The families of the Brothers to the Rescue victims, for example, have won and collected almost $100 million in frozen Cuban assets. "Where else but the U.S. should we be able to vindicate the rights of individuals wronged by the governments of other nations?" asks Fernando Zulueta, a Martinez attorney.
Aside from the Cuban government, few dispute that Roque did Martinez wrong. In 1992, after apparently swimming to the U.S. naval base on Cuba's Guantanamo Bay, Roque, then 35, moved to Miami. He infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue, which Castro considers a threatening paramilitary cell, and, as part of his front, sought a spouse. He chose Martinez, whom he met in a Bible-study group at his aunt's Baptist church. Says Martinez: "I was perfect for him because I was politically naive." Roque started an ardent courtship and, say court documents, in his secret communiques to Havana referred to Martinez as "the Merry Widow."