Former US ambassador charged with spying for Cuba

Former US ambassador charged with spying for Cuba

The Justice Department says it has caught a Cuban spy who worked as a career US diplomat. (Photo: AFP)
The Justice Department says it has caught a Cuban spy who worked as a career US diplomat. (Photo: AFP)

MIAMI - A former US ambassador to Bolivia and member of the National Security Council has been charged with spying for Cuba for 40 years, the Justice Department announced Monday.

The charges against Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, "exposes one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement explaining the charges.

Rocha, a naturalized US citizen originally from Colombia, allegedly began aiding Havana as a "covert agent of Cuba's General Directorate of Intelligence" in 1981, and his espionage activities continued to the present, the statement said.

"Those who have the privilege of serving in the government of the United States are given an enormous amount of trust by the public we serve," Garland said.

"To betray that trust by falsely pledging loyalty to the United States while serving a foreign power is a crime that will be met with the full force of the Justice Department."

Rocha, who served on the National Security Council from 1994 to 1995 in the administration of Bill Clinton and was the ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002 under Clinton and George W. Bush, was to appear in court later Monday in Florida.

Rocha joined the State Department in 1981 and rose through the ranks as a career officer, also serving in posts in Havana, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, the Dominican Republic and Washington.

His government posts offered him access to non-public information, including classified information, and the ability to "affect US foreign policy," the government said in its statement.

The charges against him include: conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government; acting as an agent of a foreign government without prior government consent; and using a US passport obtained by making false statements.

Rocha allegedly admitted his activities to an undercover FBI agent posing as a Cuban operative.

"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," the Justice Department said.

Rocha praised late Cuban leader Fidel Castro and described his work for Cuba as "a grand slam," the statement said.

"Individuals who violate federal law by engaging in clandestine activity for hostile foreign states, and by providing false information about those activities to the US government, endanger American democracy," said federal prosecutor Markenzy Lapointe.

"That is especially so for past or present employees of the United States who took an oath to uphold the US Constitution, and for US citizens who benefit from the freedoms and opportunities of this country."

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