Roque remains convinced that Cuba was right to defend itself against exile organizations in Florida. A Salvadoran who said Cuban exiles paid him to plant bombs in Cuba is serving a 30-year term for an attack that killed an Italian tourist in Havana in 1997. Roque believes exiles were bent on provoking chaos in Cuba that would justify U.S. military intervention.
“There still are groups that want a confrontation, that want blood. They want three, four, five days to kill,” Roque said.
Former members of Brothers to the Rescue admit that they occasionally dropped political leaflets that landed in Havana, but said their primary mission was humanitarian. In the early 1990s, they flew hundreds of missions over the Florida Straits, spotting more than 17,000 Cuban rafters and helping save their lives. They contend that Roque lied about the group to the FBI, painting it as an extremist group interested in carrying out acts of sabotage in Cuba.
“I know of no one, not anyone who flew the Brothers mission, to have any intent in their souls to do anything other than save lives,” Lawrence said. “Mr. Roque and the rest are spies, and lie as spies do.”
Roque wants the United States and Cuba to end the hostilities and normalize relations. He dreams of seeing fighter pilots from the United States, Cuba, Vietnam and Russia joining together to share ideas.
“I hope that moment arrives and we’ll sit down at a table and smoke a peace pipe,” he said. “Well, I don’t smoke, but I’ll hold it in my hand, too. With pleasure, with pleasure, I’ll do it.”
Broke and desperate
Ana Margarita Martínez doesn’t believe a word of it — and it’s no wonder. As part of his elaborate cover, Roque married her in 1995 only to abandon her and her two children less than a year later.
“If you look up the definition of sociopath, it describes him well,” she said.
“He thought he was going to be somebody in Cuba and he’s a nobody. He tasted freedom in the U.S. and now he has none. He can’t even say what he really feels for fear of repercussions. He sold his soul to the devil and is now paying a high price. I pity him.”
But Van Hare, who co-authored the book about Roque, doesn’t share that pity. “An intelligence operative who is revealed and publicly identified is essentially out of a job. I do not feel bad for him — he chose his path in life and was no doubt fully aware of how intelligence agents in Cuba ‘retire’ and what little they get as a result.”
Roque concedes that adjusting to life in Cuba since his forced retirement at age 40 has been “very, very, very brutal.”
He considers his time in Florida his “four best professional years. And all of a sudden, as pilots say, the engines went out.”
“I would have liked to continue flying. I would have liked a job that’s more in line with what I’ve learned. But, well, I didn’t get that.”
It could have been worse. Roque could have landed in an American jail.
“I thought about that several times,” he said. “The only thing that saved me spiritually was that I wasn’t doing anything bad.”
He was surprised at how aggressively U.S. authorities pursued other members of the Wasp spy network.