Friday, April 2, 2010

Administration defends Cuba flights in court

A federal court in Miami is considering an effort by Ana Margarita Martinez, who holds a $27 million civil judgment against the Cuban government, to collect that judgment by garnishing the fees paid to the Cuban government in connection with the approximately 50 charter flights that go back and forth each week.

The judge asked the federal government to state its opinion on the case, and it did so by filing a “Statement of Interest” on Wednesday.

The court doesn’t make such documents public, so thanks to El Nuevo Herald for putting it on its website here (pdf). The Herald’s story is here, and Miami New Times profiles Ms. Martinez here, giving background on her original grievance – a Cuban agent who married her and abruptly abandoned her – and her views on the lawsuit.

The U.S. government’s position is unequivocal. The Statement of Interest begins with a variety of legal arguments why Ms. Martinez’ claims lack merit. It argues that the U.S.-Cuba flights are in the U.S. national interest and includes a supporting statement from the State Department. Finally, starting on page 39 it includes a declaration by the Treasury Department and an exchange of letters that would seem to establish that in accepting a partial payment of $198,000 in 2005, Ms. Martinez relinquished her claim to punitive damages and retains a claim to about $7 million in compensatory damages.

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