Former profession U.S. diplomat charged with secretly spying for Cuban intelligence for many years

MIAMI — A former American diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia has been charged with serving as a undercover agent for Cuba’s intelligence companies courting again many years, the Justice Department stated Monday.

Newly unsealed courtroom papers allege that Manuel Rocha engaged in “clandestine activity” on Cuba’s behalf since a minimum of 1981, together with by assembly with Cuban intelligence operatives and offering false data to U.S. authorities officers about his travels and contacts.

The criticism, filed in federal courtroom in Miami, fees Rocha with crimes together with appearing as an unlawful agent of a international authorities and supplies a vivid case research in what American officers say are long-standing efforts by Cuba and its notoriously refined intelligence companies to focus on authorities officers who will be flipped.

The 73-year-old Rocha, who was arrested at his Miami house Friday, was due in courtroom later Monday and it was not instantly clear whether or not he had a lawyer.

His two-decade profession as a U.S. diplomat included high posts in Bolivia, Argentina and the U.S. Interests Section in Havana within the mid-Nineteen Nineties. The Justice Department didn’t reveal how Rocha attracted the eye of Cuba’s intelligence operatives nor did it element what data he might have offered whereas he was in authorities.

The charging doc traces Rocha‘s illegal ties to Cuba back to 1981, when he first joined the State Department, to well after his departure from the federal government, when he took on lucrative private sector jobs — most recently as a senior business adviser to an international public relations firm.

The FBI learned about the relationship last year and arranged a series of undercover encounters in downtown Miami between Rocha and someone purporting to be a Cuban intelligence operative.

During one such meeting, the affidavit says, Rocha said he had been directed by the government’s intelligence companies to “lead a normal life” and had created the “legend,” or synthetic persona, “of a right-wing person.”

“I always told myself, ‘The only thing that can put everything we have done in danger is — is … someone’s betrayal, someone who may have met me, someone who may have known something at some point,’” Rocha stated, in response to the charging doc.

In one other assembly final yr, Rocha referred to Cuba taking pictures down two unarmed planes despatched by the Miami-based group of exiles Brothers to the Rescue during which 4 opponents of Castro’s authorities have been killed in 1996.

There’s no indication within the criticism that Rocha aided the Cubans with the navy operation — a serious flashpoint in additional than a half-century of brinksmanship between the communist-ruled island and its right-wing opponents in Miami. But on the time he served as a senior political officer on the U.S. particular curiosity part in Havana.

“I lived through it, because I was in charge,” Rocha stated. “That was a time of a lot of tension.”

Born in Colombia, Rocha was raised in a working-class house in New York City and went on to acquire a succession of liberal arts levels from Yale, Harvard and Georgetown earlier than becoming a member of the international service in 1981.

He was the highest U.S. diplomat in Argentina between 1997 and 2000 as a decadelong foreign money stabilization program backed by Washington was unraveling underneath the load of giant international debt and stagnant development, triggering a political disaster that might see the South American nation cycle by 5 presidents in two weeks.

At his subsequent submit as ambassador to Bolivia, he intervened immediately into the 2002 presidential race, warning weeks forward of the vote that the U.S. would minimize off help to the poor South American nation if it have been to elect former coca grower Evo Morales.

“I want to remind the Bolivian electorate that if they vote for those who want Bolivia to return to exporting cocaine, that will seriously jeopardize any future aid to Bolivia from the United States,” Rocha stated in a speech that was extensively interpreted as an try to maintain U.S. dominance within the area.

The gambit angered Bolivians and gave Morales a last-minute increase. When he was lastly elected three years later, the leftist chief expelled Rocha‘s successor as chief of the diplomatic mission for inciting “civil war.”

Rocha also served in Italy, Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and worked as a Latin America expert for the National Security Council.

After his retirement from the State Department, Rocha began a second career in business, serving as the president of a gold mine in the Dominican Republic partly owned by Canada’s Barrick Gold.

More just lately, he’s held senior roles at XCoal, a Pennsylvania-based coal exporter; Clover Leaf Capital, an organization shaped to facilitate mergers within the hashish business; legislation agency Foley & Lardner; and Spanish public relations agency Llorente & Cuenca.

John Feeley, who ended an extended diplomatic profession serving as U.S. ambassador to Panama, stated he was “saddened and shocked that my former mentor turned out to be a career Cuban mole.”

Feeley, who retired from the State Department over variations with President Donald Trump’s administration, stated that the final time he noticed Rocha he was stunned by how a diplomat who had served administrations of each events had so totally embraced Trump’s model of politics.

“It is beyond ironic that he cultivated this cartoonish persona and that everyone apparently bought it,” he stated.


Tucker reported from Washington.


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