Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ex-spy hopes to sell home and prized Rolex

Juan Pablo Roque at his home in Havana
I first met former Cuban spy Juan Pablo Roque in May 2003. I wanted to talk to him about a reported attempt on his life, among other things.
Rodolfo Frómeta, head of a militant anti-Castro group called Comandos F-4, had told me that would-be assassins shot Roque during a 2 a.m. gun battle in December 2002. He said Roque was injured and a police officer and an F-4 operative were killed.
Roque showed no signs of injury when I found him. I asked if he'd been attacked.
"I'm fine," he said. "Can't you see?"
That made me suspect that the assassination attempt never occurred. But there certainly are people who would like to do harm to Roque.

He had been a spy in Miami and was a key figure in the Cuban military's shoot-down of two civilian aircraft in 1996. He would not talk about his South Florida activities when I saw him in 2003. He said he didn't want to do anything that might hurt the case of five Cuban spies who had been jailed in the United States on espionage-related charges.
Roque declined to grant an interview unless government officials gave him an OK - and they did not.
I caught up with Roque again earlier this year and this time he agreed to an interview. He was friendly and relaxed and did not put any limits on the questions I asked. All he asked was that I only shoot video of the first portion of our interview, not the whole thing. He had no problem with me recording our entire talk.

Roque didn't appear desperate, but conceded he needed money. He said he was selling his house and a prized possession, a Rolex he bought with money the FBI gave him while he was an informant.
Shown on this page are photos of the house, which once belonged to the ex-spy's parents.
The home has a big airy living room and a lush backyard that is filled with fruit trees.

Roque gave me a tour of the property, pointing out the kitchen, above.

After the tour, we sat on the back patio of the home and talked. The back wall, shown above, was covered with messages from friends and visitors.

Roque may be demonized in Miami, but  he enjoys some support in Cuba, where Castro loyalists resent U.S. efforts to undermine the socialist government.

This is the Rolex that Roque is selling. It is a GMT Master II watch. Similar models go for $4,500 and up on eBay. Roque said he's hoping that someone who likes spy memorabilia will want to buy the watch.

Roque appeared to be in good physical condition. Some of his critics in Miami have suggested he is a heavy drinker. I didn't see any evidence of that.
My impression is that Roque takes care of himself and works out several times a week. He seemed to be passionate about physical fitness and said his exercise routine hadn't changed much since he was a military pilot.

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