Former US Ambassador Admits to Acting as a Secret Agent for Communist Cuba for Decades

A former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia and a National Security Council member pleaded guilty on Friday to secretly acting for decades as an agent of the government of the Republic of Cuba, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). 

A federal judge sentenced Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, of Miami, to 15 years in prison for working against the U.S. government for decades for communist Cuba in “clandestine intelligence-gathering missions.”

“Today’s plea and sentencing brings to an end more than four decades of betrayal and deceit by the defendant,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the DOJ’s National Security Division. “Rocha admitted to acting as an agent of the Cuban government at the same time he held numerous positions of trust in the U.S. government, a staggering betrayal of the American people and an acknowledgment that every oath he took to the United States was a lie.”

Prosecutors agreed to dismiss more than a dozen other charges in exchange for his guilty plea, the Associated Press said.

Manuel Rocha, 73

Rocha was a former U.S. Department of State employee who served on the National Security Council from 1994 to 1995, and as U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002.

“Victor Manuel Rocha secretly acted for decades as an agent of a hostile foreign power. He thought the story of his covert mission for Cuba would never be told because he had the intelligence, knowledge, and discipline to never to be detected. Rocha underestimated those same skills in the prosecutors and law enforcement agents who worked tirelessly to bring him to justice for betraying his oath to this country,” said U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida.

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

Maximum penalty 

U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom accepted Rocha’s guilty plea to counts 1 and 2 of the indictment, which charged him with conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government and conspiring to defraud the U.S., and acting as an agent of a foreign government without notice as required by law.

The court then sentenced Rocha to the statutory maximum penalty on his counts of conviction: 15 years in prison, a $500,000 fine, three years of supervised release and a special assessment. 

Under the terms of the parties’ plea agreement, Rocha must cooperate with the U.S., including assisting with any damage assessment related to his work on behalf of the Republic of Cuba. Rocha must relinquish all future retirement benefits, including pension payments, owed to him by the U.S. based upon his former State Department employment. 

He must also assign to the U.S. any profits that he may be entitled to receive in connection with any publication relating to his criminal conduct or his U.S. government service.

“Despite swearing an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, Rocha betrayed the U.S. by secretly working as a Cuban agent for decades,” said Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “After years of lying and endangering national security and U.S. citizens, he finally accepted responsibility for his actions and received the maximum prison sentence. This should serve as a notice to our adversaries that the FBI will work tirelessly to stop foreign intelligence services and any who work with them against the interests of the United States and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

According to a criminal complaint from the DOJ, Rocha used his employment in the State Department between 1981 and 2002 to obtain classified information and affect U.S. foreign policy.

Following his employment at the State Department, Rocha transferred in 2006 as an advisor to the Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, a joint command of the U.S. military whose area of responsibility includes Cuba.

The DOJ said that Rocha provided false and misleading information to the U.S. to maintain his secret status, traveled outside the U.S. to meet with Cuban intelligence operatives, and made false and misleading statements to obtain travel documents.

Praised Castro

According to the complaint, Rocha made a series of recorded admissions to an undercover FBI agent who posed as a Cuban intelligence operative who reached out to Rocha on WhatsApp, saying that he had a message, “from your friends in Havana.”

Rocha praised the late communist leader Fidel Castro, calling him “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.

He also allegedly told the undercover agent that his efforts to infiltrate the U.S. government were “meticulous and very disciplined” and he repeatedly bragged about the significance of his efforts, saying that “what has been done has strengthened the revolution immensely,” Garland previously said. 

According to records, Rocha’s 25-year diplomatic career was spent under both Democratic and Republican administrations, with the majority of it being in Latin America during the Cold War.


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