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  HOME | Cuba

U.S. Seeks to Quash Suit Against Charter Firms Serving Cuba

MIAMI – The U.S. government asked a judge to throw out a lawsuit to retain the funds of eight companies that arrange charter flights to Cuba, arguing that such a suit would affect Washington’s foreign policy interests.

The Justice Department ruled on the suit brought by Ana Margarita Martinez to collect the $27.1 million in damages she was awarded in 2001 after suing the Cuban government.

A Miami judge ruled in favor of her suit alleging that she suffered trauma as a result of her marriage to alleged Cuban spy Juan Pablo Roque.

Martinez decided to sue the charter companies because they pay fees to the Cuban government.

The Justice Department gave its view on the case in response to a request from Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno.

“The direct flights they provide are vital for maintaining contacts that are in the national interest,” Ricardo Zuñiga, the State Department’s acting coordinator for Cuban affairs, said in an affidavit accompanying the Justice Department filing.

“A disruption in licensed air charter service would cause serious harm to U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba,” he said.

Charter flights are the only option for direct air travel from the United States to Cuba.

As Washington’s 47-year-old economic embargo effectively bars most U.S. citizens from going to Cuba, the vast majority of those who make the trip are Cuban-Americans visiting family on the communist-ruled island.

The companies involved in the suit are ABC Charters, Airline Brokers Company Inc, C&T Charters, Cuba Travel Services, Gulfstream Air Charter, Inc., Marazul Charters, Inc., Xael Charters and Wilson International Services, Inc.

Zuñiga noted that President Barack Obama last year announced his policy to allow Cuban-Americans to make unlimited family visits to the island.

Those visits, which facilitate greater contact among family members living in the United States and Cuba, will create positive changes by reducing the dependence of Cubans on the Havana government, will promote democratic values and the access of Cubans to information, the State Department official said.

In the document, the U.S. government said that it “in no way condones the acts of the Cuban government or its agents” mentioned in Martinez’s suit.

Ana Margarita Martinez’s attorneys say Roque, a Cuban air force pilot who pretended to defect, married their client in order to cover up his espionage activities in the United States.

“Roque used Ana Margarita as a smokescreen to enable him to carry out his espionage directives, which resulted in Cuban air force MiG jets shooting down two Brothers to the Rescue planes and killing four Cubans, three of them U.S. citizens and one U.S. permanent resident,” according to lawyer Fernando Zuleta. EFE

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