Posted on Tue, Oct. 03, 2006
Putting the pinch on tyrants’ finances
OUR OPINION: DON’T BLOCK COMPENSATION TO CUBA’S VICTIMS
The families of Thomas ”Pete” Ray and Howard F. Anderson have suffered
greatly since the two men were unjustly executed by Cuba during the Bay
of Pigs invasion in April 1962. Having won wrongful-death lawsuits in
federal court, both families should be able to collect the $88.5 million
in compensatory damages awarded them from Cuba’s frozen assets in the
United States. This is why Office Max’s attempt to block the families’
payment is disheartening.
Mr. Anderson was shot by a Cuban firing squad after a summary trial. His
widow, Dorothy Anderson McCarthy of Pompano Beach, and four children
were awarded $67 million in damages in 2003.
Mr. Ray, a CIA pilot, was shot down during the invasion, but he
survived. On orders of the Castro regime, he was executed with a shot to
the head. Then his body was kept in a Havana morgue for 18 years. Janet
Weininger, Mr. Ray’s daughter in Palmetto Bay, won $21.5 million in
compensatory damages. ”It’s devastating to me that an American company
would do this to other Americans who died in service to their country,”
The two families sued to collect damages from Cuban assets frozen in
U.S. banks since the 1960s. Similarly, relatives of the murdered
Brothers to the Rescue fliers and Ana Margarita Martínez, the jilted
wife of a Cuban spy, won lawsuits in court and already have collected
damages from Cuba’s frozen funds. The Ray and Anderson families should
be no different.
In this case, Office Max has filed to stop payment based on its property
claim for the Cuban Electric Company, which was confiscated by Cuba in
the 1960s. Of 5,911 claims certified by the U.S. government’s Cuban
Claims Program in the 1970s, Office Max’s claim is the largest.
Altogether those claims are now estimated to be worth nearly $7 billion.
Loss of life
Office Max has questioned the validity of the families’ federal
judgments and argued that the Cuban funds should cover property claims.
Yet those businesses already have recouped some of their losses through
U.S. tax deductions.
The Cuban property claims, certified through an administrative process,
received less scrutiny than the judgments and damage awards decided by
federal judges after lengthy U.S. court processes. Cuba could have
defended itself in court, but chose not to.
In the U.S. legal system, compensation for loss of life takes precedence
over property claims. In cases like Mr. Ray’s and Mr. Anderson’s, in
which tyrants commit heinous abuses, the higher principle is clear.
Wrongful-death judgments in civil trials are a measure of justice.
Collecting damages is one way to punish despots and, hopefully, deter
such crimes in the future.