February 24, 2024

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Former US Ambassador Manuel Rocha was accused of spying for Cuba

The Justice Department on Monday unveiled charges against a retired ambassador, accusing him of being a “secret agent” for decades — for allegedly betraying his country by secretly working on behalf of Cuba’s spy agency.

The arrest of 73-year-old Manuel Rocha capped a covert operation lasting more than a year, in which an FBI agent posing as a Cuban intelligence agent secretly recorded Rocha making incriminating statements about his life of diplomatic deception.

Attorney General Merrick Garland called Rocha’s case “one of the largest and longest-running infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent,” adding that in those secretly recorded conversations, Rocha repeatedly referred to the United States as the “enemy.” “.

Court papers filed in Miami describe a series of meetings in which Rocha discussed his covert work for Cuba, including one in which he said the “Dereción” — referring to that country’s General Directorate of Intelligence — “asked me…to live a normal life.” . “.

Rocha allegedly said he followed these instructions by creating a public reputation as a “right-wing person”, when in fact he was committed to Cuba’s communist cause.

The former US ambassador to Bolivia has been charged with serving as a secret agent for Cuba decades ago, Attorney General Merrick Garland said on December 4. (Video: Washington Post)

In one secretly recorded meeting between Rocha and the undercover agent, the suspect allegedly described how he became a State Department employee: “I went little by little. … It was a very delicate process. … I knew exactly how to do it and obviously the Derecy went along with me. …They knew I knew how to do it.

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Rocha was born in Colombia and became a US citizen in 1978. He joined the State Department in 1981. The criminal complaint against him says that since at least that year, He “secretly supported the Republic of Cuba and its secret intelligence-gathering mission against the United States by acting as a secret agent for the Cuban intelligence services.”

Authorities say Rocha promoted false and misleading information within the U.S. government and met with Cuban intelligence agents. In secretly recorded conversations with an undercover FBI agent, Rocha insisted he remained committed to the revolutionary cause of communist Cuba, according to court papers unsealed Monday. The Associated Press first reported Rocha’s arrest late last week.

Over the years, Rocha rose through the ranks of the State Department to serve in positions at U.S. embassies in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico and Argentina before ascending to a more sensitive government. Supports.

From mid-1994 to mid-1995, Rocha served on the US National Security Council, with a portfolio that included Cuba.

Last year, Cubans took to the streets. Now they are fleeing the island.

From 1999 to 2002, Rocha served as United States Ambassador to Bolivia.

This job and others gave him access to US government secrets, including classified information. Authorities say Rocha repeatedly lied when answering security questions that determined whether he could keep those jobs.

“Those who have the honor of serving in the United States government command an enormous amount of trust from the public we serve,” Garland told reporters. “Betraying that trust by falsely pledging allegiance to the United States while serving a foreign power is a crime that the Department of Justice will confront with the full force of the Department.”

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From 2006 to 2012, Rocha served as an advisor to military officials at US Southern Command – the part of the military whose area of ​​responsibility includes Cuba.

Charging documents do not describe how the FBI suspected Rocha was an undercover agent — only that the agency received information about him “prior to November 2022.”

Rocha is charged with conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Department of Justice, and acting as an agent of a foreign government without such notification; And lying to get a passport.

He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge, and is expected to make a brief court appearance on Monday.