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Former US ambassador accused of spying for Cuba

Federal prosecutors on Monday charged a former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia with several crimes, accusing him of secretly acting as an agent for Cuba for decades.

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Attorney General Merrick Garland called the incident “one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent.”

“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,” Garland said Monday in a statement.

Rocha, 73, previously worked for the State Department from 1981 to 2002. He served on the National Security Council from 1994 to 1995 and as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002.

“Like all federal officials, U.S. diplomats swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said Monday. “Acting as an agent for Cuba – a hostile foreign power – is a blatant violation of that oath and betrays the trust of the American people.”

In a complaint filed Monday in court, authorities said that Rocha – who was born in Colombia and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1978 – served as a covert agent of Cuba’s General Directorate of Intelligence beginning in 1981 or earlier. He 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.

During his employment, prosecutors said he lied repeatedly about his connections to Cuba and traveled to the island several times to meet with Cuban intelligence operatives.

From 2006 to about 2012, 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, prosecutors said.

Investigators heard allegations that Rocha worked as a covert agent for Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence before November 2022. That month, an undercover FBI employee posed as a member of the intelligence group and contacted Rocha through the WhatsApp messaging platform. Authorities said the FBI employee claimed to have a message from Rocha “from your friends in Havana,” and they subsequently met several times in 2022 and 2023.

During these meetings, prosecutors said Rocha said he had worked for Cuba for decades and described his activity as an intelligence agent for the country.

“Throughout the meetings, Rocha behaved as a Cuban agent, consistently referring to the United States as ‘the enemy,’ and using the term ‘we’ to describe himself and Cuba,” according to the Justice Department. “Rocha additionally praised Fidel Castro as the ‘Comandante,’ and referred to his contacts in Cuban intelligence as his ‘Compañeros’ (comrades) and to the Cuban intelligence services as the ‘Dirección.’ Rocha described his work as a Cuban agent as ‘a grand slam.’”

Authorities charged Rocha with conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the attorney general, acting as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the attorney general and using a passport obtained by false statement.

He is scheduled to appear in court for a pretrial detention hearing on Wednesday.

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