Former US Ambassador to Bolivia, 73, is charged with working as a Cuban spy for over 40 years after being snared in an FBI sting where he explained how he pretended to be ‘right wing’
The former US ambassador to Bolivia is accused of working as a Cuban spy for more than four decades, in what officials described as one of the “largest infiltrations” by a foreign agent.
Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested in Miami on Friday after being caught by an FBI agent posing as a Cuban intelligence officer. He is now accused of serving as a mole since at least 1981, the Justice Department said Monday.
Newly released court papers allege that Rocha engaged in “clandestine activities,” including meeting with Cuban intelligence agents and providing false information to government officials about his travels and contacts.
The complaint, filed in a federal court in Florida, accuses Rocha of crimes including acting as an illegal agent of a foreign government. It comes amid the Justice Department's escalating criminal enforcement of illegal foreign lobbying activities on U.S. soil.
Rocha, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Colombia, has held top posts in Bolivia, Argentina and the U.S. Interests Department in Havana.
Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested in Miami on Friday after an extensive FBI investigation, and he is now accused of serving as a mole since at least 1981, the Justice Department said.
He spent much of his career in Latin America during the Cold War, including a stint with the US Interests Section in Cuba
As ambassador to Bolivia, Rocha (right) intervened directly in the 2002 presidential race
“This action exposes one of the most far-reaching and longest infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.
“We allege that Victor Manuel Rocha served as an agent of the Cuban government for over forty years and sought and obtained positions within the U.S. government that would provide him with access to non-public information and the ability to influence U.S. foreign policy. to influence. .
“Those who have the privilege of serving in the United States government receive tremendous trust from the public we serve.
“Beating that trust by falsely pledging allegiance to the United States while serving a foreign power is a crime that will be fought with the full force of the Department of Justice.”
Garland added that the septuagenarian's alleged activities constitute a “blatant violation” of his oath as a federal official and “betray the trust of the American people.”
Charging documents trace Rocha's alleged illegal ties to Cuba's notoriously sophisticated intelligence services from 1981, when he first joined the State Department, to well after his departure from the federal government in 2002.
The FBI learned of the relationship last year and arranged a series of undercover meetings with someone posing as a Cuban intelligence agent.
This included a meeting in Miami last year in which Rocha said he had been told by government intelligence agencies to “live a normal life” and had created the “legend,” or artificial personality, “of a right-wing person.”
Rocha's wife, Karla Wittkop Rocha (left), declined to comment when contacted by AP. “I don't need to talk to you,” she said before hanging up
Manuel Rocha, who served as US Ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002, is seen with his wife Karla Wittkop Rocha
“I always said to myself, 'The only thing that could jeopardize everything we've done is…someone's betrayal, someone who might have met me, someone who once knew something,'” Rocha said. said, according to the charging document.
Rocha took a job at the U.S. State Department between 1981 and 2002, in positions that gave him access to classified information and the ability to influence U.S. foreign policy.
He served in various roles in Mexico City, Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Havana in Cuba, Buenos Aires in Argentina and La Paz in Bolivia.
From in or about 2006 to or about 2012, Rocha served as advisor to the commander of the US Southern Command, a joint command of the US Army whose area of responsibility includes Cuba.
The complaint alleges that during a series of meetings in 2022 and 2023 with an undercover FBI agent posing as an undercover representative of Cuba's Directorate General of Intelligence, Rocha repeatedly made statements admitting that he had spent “decades” had worked on Cuba over '40 years'. .'
When the undercover agent told Rocha that he was “an undercover representative here in Miami” whose mission was to “contact you, introduce myself as your new contact and set up a new communications plan,” Rocha responded “Yes '.
He then engaged in a long conversation describing and celebrating his activities as a Cuban intelligence agent.
Officials said Rocha's alleged activity constitutes a “blatant violation” of his oath as a federal official and “betrays the trust of the American people.”
During the meetings, Rocha acted like a mole, consistently referring to the United States as “the enemy” and using the term “we” to describe himself and Cuba, the Justice Department said.
Rocha also 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,” lawyers said.
He will appear before a U.S. magistrate judge in Miami on Monday.