Former career US diplomat admits secretly spying for Cuban intelligence for decades

MIAMI– A former U.S. ambassador said Thursday he will plead guilty to charges of serving as a secret agent for communist Cuba for decades, bringing an unexpectedly quick resolution to a case described by prosecutors as one of the most brutal betrayals in history of the US Foreign Service. .

Manuel Rocha, 73, told a federal judge that he would admit in federal charges that he conspired to act as an agent of a foreign government, charges that could land him behind bars for years. His attorney indicated that prosecutors have reached an agreement on a sentence, but the length of that term was not disclosed in court Thursday.

He is due back in court on April 12.

“I agree,” Rocha said when U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom asked him if he wanted to change his plea to guilty.

Prosecutors alleged that Rocha had engaged in “clandestine activities” on behalf of Cuba since at least 1981 – the year he joined the US Foreign Service – including meeting with Cuban intelligence agents and providing false information to US government officials about his contacts.

Federal authorities have said little about what exactly Rocha did to help Cuba during his work for the State Department and during a lucrative post-administration career that included a stint as special adviser to the commander of the U.S. Southern Command.

Rocha, whose two-decade career as a U.S. diplomat included top posts in Bolivia, Argentina and the U.S. Interests Division in Havana, was arrested by the FBI at his Miami home in December.

Instead, the case is based largely on what prosecutors say are Rocha’s own admissions, made over the past year to an undercover FBI agent posing as a Cuban intelligence agent named “Miguel.”

Rocha praised the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro as “Comandante,” labeled the U.S. an “enemy” and bragged about his service for more than four decades as a Cuban mole at the heart of U.S. foreign policy circles, the complaint said.

“What we’ve done… it’s huge… more than a Grand Slam,” he said during one of many secretly recorded conversations.