U.S. federal prosecutors charged former diplomat Victor Manuel Rocha with multiple federal crimes on Monday after an FBI investigation found evidence that Rocha acted as an undercover spy for Cuba’s communist Castro regime for over 40 years.
Rocha, 73, is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Colombia and living in Miami, Florida. Rocha was a former U.S. Department of State employee between 1981 and 2002. Through his tenure, Rocha occupied several positions and held U.S. diplomatic positions in the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Cuba, eventually serving as Ambassador to Bolivia between 2000 and 2002.
Rocha also served as an adviser to the Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, a joint command of the United States military whose area of responsibility includes Cuba, from 2006 to 2012.
Rocha was arrested in Miami on Friday following a lengthy FBI counterintelligence investigation. The former diplomat stands accused of having secretly supported the communist Castro regime’s clandestine intelligence-gathering activities against the United States.
According to the indictment filed by the prosecution on Monday, Rocha began his espionage activity in 1981. The indictment states that Rocha admitted the facts to an undercover FBI agent who posed as a covert Cuban General Directorate of Intelligence representative in several meetings held between 2022 and 2023.
The Department of Justice said that, in those meetings, Rocha made repeated statements admitting his “decades” of work for the Castro regime:
When the undercover told Rocha he was “a covert representative here in Miami” whose mission was “to contact you, introduce myself as your new contact, and establish a new communication plan,” Rocha answered “Yes,” and proceeded to engage in a lengthy conversation during which he described and celebrated his activity as a Cuban intelligence agent. 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. Rocha additionally 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.”
“This action exposes one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “We allege that for over 40 years, Victor Manuel Rocha served as an agent of the Cuban government and sought out and obtained positions within the United States government that would provide him with access to non-public information and the ability to affect U.S. foreign policy.”
“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 continued. “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.”
“Like all federal officials, U.S. diplomats swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Acting as an agent for Cuba – a hostile foreign power – is a blatant violation of that oath and betrays the trust of the American people,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. “The FBI will continue to rigorously defend against foreign governments targeting America, and we will find and hold accountable anyone who violates their oath to the United States, no matter how long it takes.”
The indictment explains, that to further his role as a pro-Cuban spy, Rocha allegedly obtained employment in the U.S. Department of State “in positions that provided him access to nonpublic information, including classified information, and the ability to affect U.S. foreign policy.”
After his State Department employment ended, Rocha allegedly engaged in other acts intended to support Cuba’s intelligence services.
“Rocha secretly supported the Republic of Cuba and its mission of illegal collection of intelligence information against the U.S. by serving as an agent of its secret services,” the indictment stated.
The complaint alleged that Rocha kept his status as a Cuban agent secret to protect himself and others and to allow himself the opportunity to engage in additional clandestine activity, providing false and misleading information to the United States to maintain his secret mission.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said during a press briefing on Monday that he was unable to provide details on an ongoing law enforcement matter.
“We commend the work of law enforcement in this matter – the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Diplomatic Security Service here at the State Department – and the actions they have taken so far in this case, and we will in the coming days, weeks, months work with our partners in the Intelligence Community to assess any long-term national security implications for this matter,” Miller said.
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