Cuba Is Sued for Execution of American 40 Years Ago
By DAVID GONZALEZ
MIAMI, Nov. 30 — The widow and children of a United States businessman
who was executed more than 40 years ago on charges of
conspiring against Fidel Castro's revolutionary government today filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Cuba.
Dorothy Anderson McCarthy, 79, brought her civil suit seeking unspecified
damages, under federal laws that allow American citizens to sue foreign
nations for acts of murder and torture. Her husband, Howard F. Anderson, was executed by a Cuban firing squad on April 19, 1961, two days
after he was convicted of helping to smuggle weapons to an anti-Castro group on the island.
The lawsuit contends that his trial, which took place as the failed
Bay of Pigs invasion was occurring, was a sham and that prosecutors whipped
anti-American fervor to win a death sentence.
"Finally, justice is beginning," said Mrs. McCarthy, who remarried in
1964 and lives in Pompano Beach, Fla. "We know it is not going to be fast,
but it will come."
Luis Fernandez, a spokesman for the Cuban government in Washington, said he had not seen the court papers and had no comment.
The family said it was filing suit now because it was only in two recent
cases that financial judgments were obtained against the Cuban government,
which faces nearly 6,000 unresolved claims from American citizens, mostly concerning confiscated properties.
Scott Leeds, a lawyer for the Anderson family, said that in the two
cases, Congress and President Clinton passed laws last year to release
money in United States banks. This case would require similar legislation to collect a judgment.
Mr. Leeds said he did not expect the Cuban government to present a defense
in the case, but he said he intended to proceed anyway, relying on
court transcripts, diplomatic reports and, if possible, witnesses.
"This is not going to be a sham on our part," Mr. Leeds said. "We will prove our case and establish a judgment."
Irwin Stotzky, a University of Miami law professor, said that the case
might be difficult to pursue because the events occurred 40 years ago and
were thus possibly beyond the period the statutes covered. He added that collecting a judgment might also prove difficult, since so many other
claims remain unresolved.
Mr. Anderson first went to Cuba during World War II, when he was stationed
there with the Navy. He met his future wife, an American citizen
who was born in Cuba, and started a family there as he ran several gas stations and other businesses. He was also the president of the Havana post
of the American Legion.
His wife and four children left the island for Miami soon after the
Cuban revolution in 1959, but Mr. Anderson stayed to manage his businesses.
Mrs. McCarthy's lawsuit says that Mr. Anderson returned to Cuba soon after visiting his family in December 1960, when he heard that the Cuban
government was planning to confiscate his properties. He was arrested by military intelligence agents in March 1961, jailed in solitary confinement
for several weeks and questioned without his lawyer present.
Mr. Anderson was charged, among other things, with being an agent for
Accion Civica, an anti-Castro group, and with conspiring to smuggle arms
into the country. He was tried alongside several Cubans, with the proceedings starting at the same time that Cuban exiles supported by the United
States began their failed invasion at the Bay of Pigs.
The complaint said that the two- day trial was marked by fierce denunciations
of the United States in the courtroom, and that the prosecution failed
to present evidence of Mr. Anderson having had contact with the anti-Castro group. A report by a Swiss diplomat who followed the trial said that
the prosecutor relentlessly harassed Mr. Anderson.
"The spectacle of the prosecutor railing against the accused, flinging
himself about like a madman, and passionately demanding the death sentence
for five of them was a painful sight," the diplomat said in a contemporaneous report that was quoted in the complaint. "Among other things, he
called them rotten fruit and declared that the only thing they were good for was to fertilize the land with their carcasses."
At the end of the trial, the complaint contended, the prosecutor "stood
on a table and pointed toward Mr. Anderson yelling `Death to the
According to the complaint, the normal sentence for the charges against
Mr. Anderson was nine years, but the prosecutor successfully argued for
the death penalty. Mr. Anderson was executed by firing squad at dawn on April 19. He was 41.
Now his four children are all older than their father lived to be. At
a news conference in Miami today, Lee Anderson, a daughter, read his last
to the family, as her siblings Gary, Marc and Bonnie softly cried alongside their mother.
"Please give my love to the children and try to explain the whys and
wherefores of why this is happening," Mr. Anderson wrote. "Good night and
will be with all of you in my dreams."
He added a postscript. "Thanks to all of you for the happiness you have
given me." His son Gary said he could never read that far into the letter
"That is why we are suing," Gary Anderson finally said. "His words are
more than enough."