Former US diplomat Manuel Rocha is sentenced to 15 years in prison for spying for Cuba for more than 40 years – La Opinión

Former US diplomat Manuel Rocha is sentenced to 15 years in prison for spying for Cuba for more than 40 years – La Opinión


A former career American diplomat who served as the United States ambassador to Bolivia was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to working as an agent for Cuba for more than 40 years.

Last February, Víctor Manuel Rocha73, reached a plea deal and admitted in a Florida court to having secretly passed information to the Cuban communist government since 1981 while working for the US State Department.

With this conviction, one of the highest-profile espionage cases between Cuba and the United States ends.

Rocha was charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act by acting as a foreign agent, wire fraud and making false statements to obtain a U.S. passport.

Evidence collected by investigators includes undercover recordings of Rocha in which he admitted to having worked for Cuba for decades, praising the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro as a “commander” and calling the U.S. “the enemy.”

Rocha spent almost his entire professional career working for the Cuban Revolution while simultaneously rising in the US diplomatic service.

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Getty Images: The former diplomat was arrested after a year-long undercover FBI investigation.

James Olson, former CIA counterintelligence chief, told the BBC in January that the case illustrates how Cuba’s intelligence services outwitted the U.S. government.

“We were his. They beat us. That is one of the reasons why I have this personal grudge against the Cuban intelligence service, because they have been very successful in operating against us,” Olson said.

“[Rocha] He is a traitor. He betrayed our country. I think that is despicable and I don’t think it will see the light of day again,” he added.

A long career at the service of Cuba

The US and Cuba have had a strained relationship since Fidel Castro overthrew a Washington-backed government more than 60 years ago.

The United States imposed a trade embargo against Cuba in the 1960s. Former President Barack Obama and former Cuban President Raúl Castro took steps to normalize relations in 2015, although former US President Donald Trump later reversed many of these actions.

Born in Colombia, Rocha grew up in New York City and earned degrees from Yale, Harvard, and Georgetown Universities.

He worked as the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia from 1999 to 2002, according to prosecutors, and held various government positions, including the National Security Council, for 25 years.

In addition to Bolivia, he held positions in Argentina, Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

After leaving the diplomatic service, he continued in a lucrative private consulting job as a special advisor to the US Southern Command, the part of the US military that oversees Cuba.

In December 2023, US Attorney General Merrick Garland called Rocha’s alleged crimes “one of the most far-reaching and longest-running infiltrations of the US government by a foreign agent.” .

How did they make him fall?

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Reuters: US authorities released images of Manuel Rocha covertly recorded by an FBI agent.

In November 2022, an undercover FBI agent contacted Rocha via WhatsApp and claimed to be a representative of the Cuban intelligence services delivering a message from “his friends in Havana,” according to the charging document. .

Rocha agreed to meet the agent several times, including once at a food court, because there was no chance anyone would see him there, he said, according to court documents.

During three meetings with the undercover FBI agent, Rocha began divulging details about his time working as a secret agent for the Cuban government, the charging document describes.

Rocha allegedly used the term “we” to describe Cuba and himself.

“I knew exactly how to do it and obviously the Management [la agencia de inteligencia de Cuba] “He accompanied me (…) It is a long process and it was not easy,” he allegedly told the FBI agent.

When the agent, posing as a Cuban spy, asked him “are you still with us?”, Rocha responded that he was “angry” because his loyalty was being questioned.

“It’s like questioning my manhood,” he added.

* This note was originally published in February 2024 and was updated with the news of Rocha’s conviction.

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BBC:

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