A former U.S. ambassador was arrested and faces charges of working as an agent for Cuba for decades.
Manuel Rocha, the former U.S. envoy to Bolivia, is accused of engaging in “clandestine activity” on Cuba’s behalf since 1981.
According to the Associated Press, Rocha met with Cuban intelligence operatives and provided false information to U.S. government officials about his contacts.
The arrest “exposes one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“Those who have the privilege of serving in the government of the United States are given an enormous amount of trust by the public we serve,” Garland told reporters, according to NBC News.
“To betray that trust by falsely pledging loyalty to the United States while serving a foreign power is a crime that will be met with the full force of the Justice Department,” he added.
Victor Manuel Rocha, a former US ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002, has been charged with multiple federal crimes, Justice Department said, including acting as an illegal foreign agent, and using a fraudulently obtained passport https://t.co/MfYMcpWveH pic.twitter.com/yYqQ9GrUsx
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 5, 2023
NBC News reports:
Rocha is being accused of working to promote the Cuban government’s interests, which is not a crime unless it’s done on U.S. soil without registering with the Justice Department as a foreign lobbyist.
The government claims Rocha has been working on behalf of Havana from November 1981 to now.
He faces at least three criminal counts: conspiracy to act as foreign agent to defraud the U.S., acting as an illegal agent for a foreign government and use of passport obtained by false statement.
Additional charges are expected to come later this week, the government said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan D. Stratton said Rocha should be held without bail, claiming he’s a flight risk with dual citizenship. The defense said Rocha will make all court appearances if he’s granted bail.
A heading on that matter was set for Wednesday.
The former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia is accused of being a secret agent for the Cuban government. The Department of Justice says Victor Manuel Rocha engaged in "clandestine activity" on behalf of Cuba for more than 40 years. @PierreTABC reports. https://t.co/UuP4QPauT4 pic.twitter.com/bYJrqae4lN
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) December 5, 2023
From the Associated Press:
The 73-year-old Rocha, whose two-decade career as a U.S. diplomat included top posts in Bolivia, Argentina and the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, was arrested by the FBI at his Miami home Friday. He was ordered held following Monday’s brief court appearance pending a bond hearing Wednesday. His attorney declined to comment.
The Justice Department did not reveal how Rocha attracted the attention of Cuba’s intelligence operatives nor did it describe what, if any, sensitive information he may have provided while working for the State Department and in a lucrative post-government career that included a stint as a special adviser to the commander of U.S. Southern Command.
Instead, the case relies largely on what prosecutors say were Rocha’s own admissions, made over the past year to an undercover FBI agent posing as a Cuban intelligence operative named “Miguel.”
Rocha praised the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro as “Comandante,” branded the U.S. the “enemy” and bragged about his service for more than 40 years as a Cuban mole in the heart of U.S. foreign policy circles, the complaint says.
“What we have done … it’s enormous … more than a Grand Slam,” he was quoted as saying at one of several secretly recorded conversations.
To cover his tracks, Rocha referred to Cuba as “the island” and led a “normal life” disguised as a “right-wing person,” he said in one of the recordings. Former colleagues and friends described Rocha as a vocal admirer of former President Donald Trump, who took a hard line on Cuba.