Flagler College assistant professor Tracey Eaton's interview with a former Cuban spy is garnering major media attention.
Juan Pablo Roque, a former Cuban spy who staged his own defection in 1992.
Oct. 9, 2012
Tracey Eaton was the Havana bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News when he first met Juan Pablo Roque in 2003. This past summer Eaton caught up again with Roque, a former Cuban spy who staged his own defection in 1992, and the interview is garnering major media attention.
“I was back in Havana in 2010 and 2011 working on a book about Harley-Davidson riders in Cuba,” said Eaton, an assistant professor of Communication at Flagler College. “One day I was talking with one of the riders and he told me he knew Roque and asked if I was still interested in interviewing him. Sure, I said.”
Roque, a former fighter pilot, swam to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in 1992 and declared opposition to Fidel Castro. While in South Florida, he became a pilot for Brothers to the Rescue, a group dedicated to searching for rafters in the Florida Straits.
In 1996, Roque slipped back into Cuba the day before Cuban MiGs shot down two civilian aircraft flown by members of the Brothers group, who were accused of dropping political leaflets onto Havana. The attack killed four civilians and outed Roque as a spy, surprising not only the Cuban-American woman Roque had married as part of his cover, but also the FBI who had been paying him as an informant.
Eaton’s interview was Roque’s first in 16 years and was featured on Miami’s Spanish-language cable TV station, América TeVe, for four nights on a show called, “A Mano Limpia,” hosted by journalist Oscar Haza.
In the interview, Roque, who now lives in a cramped apartment and claims he is broke, said he wishes he had done more to stop the shoot-down.
“Perhaps now … I’d try to play a much stronger role in the things that happened,” he said. “I’d try to play a better role. If I played it bad or good, let the people decide. Let those who want to judge me, judge me.”
Eaton’s interview even produced an apology from the former spy.
“If I could travel in a time machine,” he said. “I’d get those boys off the planes that were shot down.”
In addition to the video interview, Eaton wrote two stories on Roque for the non-profit Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, which distributed them to a network of news outlet, including the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. The stories generated more than 1,100 comments and were picked up by dozens of websites.