“I thought they were going to let them go right away, put them on a plane to Cuba.”
The accused ringleader, Gerardo Hernández, received two life sentences. That was “grossly unfair,” Roque said, because Hernández didn’t even approach any of the exile organizations. “Gerardo wasn’t into absolutely anything. He didn’t participate in anything, nothing.”
Khuly isn’t sympathetic to Hernández’s plight.
“He has had every opportunity that the United States offers its citizens to defend himself — all the way up to the Supreme Court — and he’s not even a U.S. citizen,” Khuly said.
“I’m more than satisfied with his conviction. My brother Armando, Mario, Pablo and Carlos never had the chance to defend themselves. Shooting down unarmed civilian aircraft is an egregious violation of international law. There’s no excuse for that.”
Roque, meantime, is free, but not entirely content. He said he misses the American way of life: “the discipline, the love of work.”
“I did so many jobs. I asphalted streets there. I took on that job with African-Americans. They liked me a lot. Every time they asked me where I was from, I told them I was Cuban. They asked me if that was near Alaska. But I felt a lot of solidarity with them.
“We asphalted streets at 10 at night. We worked all night. It was very tough job.”
Repair crews aren’t nearly as disciplined in Cuba, where workers lay asphalt “at 10 in the morning, at noon. A truck runs over it. Then another. They do very sloppy work.”
Roque said he worked hard in America, but “you saw the results and I liked that a lot.”
Now unemployed, Roque said he reads as much as he can about science, aviation and the cosmos. He works out regularly and prefers weightlifting and parallel bar exercises, a regimen he learned in the Soviet Union.
He said if he had to swim to the Guantanamo naval base again — some 6 kilometers, or 3.7 miles, from the Cuban side — he wouldn’t hesitate.
“I am not exaggerating if I tell you I could do it now without any kind of problem. I love to swim.”
He declined to disclose the price of the two-story, three-bedroom home he is selling. The house belonged to his parents and has a lush backyard filled with tropical plants and fruit trees.
The ex-spy’s Rolex is a GMT Master II, a model designed for pilots with the help of Pan Am Airways in the 1950s.
“He wore it here all the time,” said his ex-wife in Miami. “I never understood how he was able to go and buy a Rolex. Later I realized he bought it with the money the FBI had given him to be an informant.”
Used GMT Master II watches go for $4,500 and up on eBay, but Roque hopes his will fetch more than that in an auction.
“I think that an American collector might be interested in buying it. Someone who likes James Bond.”
The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting is a nonprofit news organization supported by foundations and individual contributions. For more information, visit fcir.org.