US Diplomat and Spy

US Diplomat and Spy

A former career US diplomat was sentenced Friday to 15 years in federal prison after admitting he worked for decades as a secret agent for Cuba, in a plea agreement that leaves many unanswered questions about a betrayal that stunned the US foreign service.

Manuel Rocha, 73, will also pay a $500,000 fine and cooperate with authorities after pleading guilty to conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government. In exchange, prosecutors dismissed more than a dozen other counts, including wire fraud and making false statements.

“I plead guilty,” said Rocha, dressed in a beige jail uniform, to Beth Bloom, the US district court judge, adding he understood the gravity of his actions.


Prosecutors said those details remain classified and would not even tell Bloom when the government determined Rocha was spying for Cuba.

Federal authorities have been conducting a confidential damage assessment that could take years to complete. The state department said Friday it would continue working with the intelligence community “to fully assess the foreign policy and national security implications of these charges”

Rocha’s sentence came less than six months after his shocking arrest at his Miami home on allegations he engaged in “clandestine activity” on Cuba’s behalf since at least 1981, the year he joined the US foreign service.

When the former US ambassador to Bolivia, Manuel Rocha, was arrested in Miami recently and charged by his previous employer – the US government – with having spent more than 40 years as a Cuban agent, it amounted to one of the biggest spying scandals involving the communist-run island this century.

The US Attorney General, Merrick Garland, called Mr Rocha’s alleged crimes “one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the US government by a foreign agent”

Rocha as  a Double Agent

But a recent Associated Press investigation found red flags overlooked along the way, including a warning that one long-time CIA operative received nearly two decades ago that Rocha was working as a double agent. Separate intelligence revealed the CIA had been aware as early as 1987 that Cuban leader Fidel Castro had a “super mole” burrowed deep inside the US government.

Fidel Castro

Rocha’s prestigious career included stints as ambassador to Bolivia and top posts in Argentina, Mexico, the White House and the US Interests Section in Havana.

In 1973, the year he graduated from Yale, Rocha traveled to Chile, where prosecutors say he became a “great friend” of Cuba’s intelligence agency, the General Directorate of Intelligence, or DGI.


Castro as “Comandante

Rocha praised Castro as “Comandante” in the conversations, branded the US the “enemy” and boasted about his service for more than 40 years as a Cuban mole in the heart of US foreign policy circles, prosecutors said in court records.

“Any sentence that allows him to see the light of day again would not be justice,” said Carlos Trujillo, a Miami attorney who served as US ambassador to the Organization of American States during the Trump administration. “He’s a spy for a foreign adversary who put American lives at risk.”

Rocha is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He serves on the University of Miami’s International Advisory Board. He has also been a member of Henry Kissinger’s International Council on Terrorism and has served on the advisory board of the Cuba Transition Project of the University of Miami


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