Published Wednesday, August 4, 1999, in the Miami Herald

LIZ BALMASEDA

Suit targets very personal injury

In her soon-to-be-published memoir, Ana Margarita Martinez tells the story of her final night with the man she thought she loved. On that night, in February 1996, she made love to her husband, slept sweetly at his side, kissed him goodbye as he went off on a business trip.

She describes feelings any wife would have for her beloved husband.

Three years and a few spy stories later, Martinez has come to view that tender final sequence in a different light:

It was rape, she charged Monday in a personal injury lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. And the rapist who prowled in her bedroom for 11 months was not a lone man, but an entire government, the government of Cuba.

Her dream husband, it turned out, was a spy for Fidel Castro, a double defector who surfaced in Havana the same weekend that Cuban fighter jets shot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes, killing four civilian crewmen.

Not only did Martinez marry Mr. Wrong, she married a phantom. She was left to ponder empty dresser drawers and piece together the subtle clues of their final days. In the larger scheme, she seemed insignificant. After all, unlike the four crewmen, she had survived Juan Pablo Roque's deception.

But the damage, she says, has proven indelible. The tragedy turned many in the exile community against her, thrust cameras into her home, forced her to grieve in public for the husband she never truly had. Was she a spy or a blind fool, people hissed.

Like many jilted spouses in a nasty divorce, Martinez, 39, a mother of two, worked out her anguish during intense therapy sessions. But unlike your typical divorcee, she could not confront her ex. He had vanished.

She fantasized about getting even. But how would she do it?

Her answer came when she met lawyer Fernando Zulueta. Intrigued by her dilemma, he researched the federal statutes. He found the law required more than evidence of fraud to indict a sovereign nation. But if he could establish personal injury, he could make a case.

Besides, he found a precedent in a 1995 Florida case, Hogan vs. Tazvel, in which a woman sued her husband for sexual battery after he infected her with genital warts. In that case, Zulueta points out, the court ruled that the woman's consent to marital sex was nullified by her cheating husband's deception.

``Roque married Ana to establish a cover,'' the lawyer says. ``In doing so, basically, he was raping her.''

It seems a ludicrous charge. Wouldn't the same apply to any marriage annulled for reasons of fraud? If so, doesn't such a lawsuit open the floodgates of litigation for deceived spouses everywhere, even in this no-fault state?

The difference, says Martinez, is that her ex was not your ordinary cheating husband. He was an employee of an enemy state.

``He managed to infiltrate not only the exile organizations, but every part of her life,'' says Miami writer Diana Montane, who coauthored Martinez's book, Estrecho de Traicion  (Straits of Betrayal), which is to be published locally.

For Martinez, the case is not about the fine points of law. ``This is about fighting back,'' she says.

Meanwhile, she's heard Roque remarried -- and is going through a divorce. She's heard he wasted no time in finding new mates.

``This is number three since he got back to Cuba,'' she says.

But for her, closure has been elusive. The only thing that has come close has been filing this lawsuit.

``Of course you could say I'm bringing it all back to the public eye, but it's different this time,'' she says. ``This time, I'm in control.''

e-mail: lbalmaseda@herald.com

Copyright 1999 Miami Herald