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Miami judge awards $1 billion in lawsuit against Cuba

MIAMI — A judge on Friday awarded more than $1 billion in damages against the Cuban government for the 1959 suicide of the father of a Cuban-American man who was involved in the CIA-backed capture and killing of revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Peter Adrien said he wanted to send a signal to Cuba's government with the huge damage award, which probably will prove difficult, if not impossible, to collect. But the attorney for Gustavo Villoldo, 76, and his younger brother, Alfredo, said his law firm would scour the globe for Cuban assets to satisfy the judgment.

"They finally get justice," said lawyer Jeremy Alters.

The award came in a lawsuit filed by Villoldo, who blamed Guevara, Fidel Castro and others for his father's 1959 suicide in Cuba. The family fled to the United States, and Villoldo later took part in the CIA's Bay of Pigs invasion and was involved in catching Guevara in Bolivia.

Cuba's current government refused to respond to the lawsuit and offered no defense. It did not immediately reply to a request in Havana for comment.

Villoldo's father took his life by a sleeping pill overdose in February 1959, shortly after Castro, Guevara and other communist revolutionaries seized power in Cuba. The elder Villoldo was a prominent Cuban businessman who also held U.S. citizenship.

The family was targeted soon after Castro took over as "lackeys of the United States and Yankee imperialists," according to the judge's ruling. The father was beaten, deprived of food, interrogated for days and repeatedly told he would be executed as a purported U.S. agent.

Soon after the man's release from jail, Guevara visited the elder Villoldo and forced him to choose either death by firing squad himself or the execution of his son, Alters said. He chose to die, then opted for suicide rather than giving Guevara and Castro the satisfaction of killing him.

"The undisputed evidence at trial established that defendants' conduct rose to such a level of depravity that they caused Mr. Villoldo to take his life, and their actions are properly classified as torture," Adrien said in a seven-page decision.

Adrien awarded nearly $1.2 billion, an amount that dwarfs several other Cuban damage awards.

Miami judge awards $1 billion in lawsuit against Cuba 05/29/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 29, 2009 10:06pm]
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