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Ex-US diplomat charged with spying for Cuba to be sentenced

A former career U.S. diplomat will appear in a federal courthouse on Friday to plead guilty to charges of working for decades as a secret agent for Cuba and to hear his sentence, court records show.

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In February, Manuel Rocha told a judge that he planned to change his plea to guilty after he was arrested on charges including conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government, according to court records. He is scheduled to go before a judge in Florida on Friday afternoon.

At a court hearing in February, prosecutors and Rocha’s attorney indicated that they had reached a deal that included a proposed sentence, though they did not disclose details of the agreement, The Associated Press reported. In exchange for Rocha’s plea, prosecutors agreed to drop 13 counts, including wire fraud and making false statements, according to the news agency.

The 73-year-old ex-diplomat faces a possible sentence of up to 15 years in prison, the Miami Herald reported.

Rocha worked for the State Department from November 1981 until August 2002, serving in roles based in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina and Bolivia. From 2000 to 2002, he was the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia. His also served on the National Security Council from 1994 to 1995.

After leaving the State Department, Rocha served as an adviser to the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, a joint command of the U.S. military whose area of responsibility includes Cuba, officials said.

Authorities arrested Rocha in early December, saying he had worked as a covert agent for Cuba’s General Directorate of Intelligence beginning in at least 1981.

“This action exposes one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in December.

“We allege that for over 40 years, Victor Manuel Rocha served as an agent of the Cuban government and sought out and obtained positions within the United States government that would provide him with access to non-public information and the ability to affect U.S. foreign policy.”

During his work for the U.S. government, prosecutors said Rocha lied repeatedly about his connections to Cuba and traveled to the island several times to meet with Cuban intelligence operatives.

“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 said. “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.”

Rocha has remained at the federal detention center in Miami since his arrest, according to the Herald. Prosecutors had argued that he was a flight risk and a danger to the community, the newspaper reported.

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