Anti-Castro agent awarded $2.8 billion by Miami court

Aug 24, 2011

The following article was published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on August 24, 2011: 

Anti-Castro agent awarded $2 bllion by Miami court

By Manuel Rueda

A Florida judge ordered Cuba to pay $2.8 billion to a former CIA agent who helped hunt down revolutionary leader Che Guevara, an award lawyers called the biggest ever in a civil suit against the communist government.

Cuban-born Gustavo Villoldo said in his lawsuit that the Cuban government tortured him and stripped his family of its wealth after Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959.

Florida Circuit Judge Beatrice Butchko found that Villoldo was tortured for five days and that Cuban agents had tried to assassinate Villoldo several times since he left Cuba for exile in the United States.
Court documents also said Cuban agents prompted Villoldo’s father to kill himself in 1959, after detaining him several times and threatening to murder the whole family if he did not give up his properties.

The award of $2.8 billion exceeded previous civilian rulings against Cuba in U.S. courts, said Villoldo’s lawyer, Andrew Hall. But it was unclear how Villoldo would collect the damages as confiscated Cuban assets in the United States only add up to $200 million.

Villoldo, 72, joined the U.S. army in the 1960s shortly after he left Cuba. As a CIA operative he helped capture Castro’s right-hand man, Argentine-born revolutionary icon Che Guevara, in the mountains of Bolivia in 1967.

In 2007, Villoldo auctioned off a lock of Guevara’s hair that he had snipped as proof after the Marxist guerrilla fighter was executed. The lock went for $100,000 to a lone bidder in a Texas auction.

And in 2009, a Florida court awarded Villoldo $1.2 billion for the death of his father, in a lawsuit against the Cuban government. But the award was scrapped after a federal judge ruled that Villoldo’s lawyers had not given Cuba the chance to go to arbitration, violating the legal conditions for suing a foreign government in U.S. courts.

This time around Villoldo’s lawyers sought international arbitration, but obtained no response from the communist government. Cuba refused to represent itself in the Villoldo case.

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