The previous US ambassador to Bolivia has been charged in federal court with performing as a secret overseas agent of Cuba, in accordance with courtroom paperwork unsealed Monday.
Manuel Rocha, the 73-year-old former American diplomat, “secretly supported the Republic of Cuba and its clandestine intelligence-gathering mission towards the USA by serving as a covert agent of Cuba’s intelligence providers,” prosecutors wrote.
Rocha served because the US ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002 and the Deputy Principal Officer of the US Pursuits Part in Cuba within the Nineteen Nineties. Rocha additionally labored for the US embassy within the Dominican Republic within the Nineteen Eighties in addition to the US consulate in Italy, and served in several roles for US embassies in Mexico and Argentina.
In a number of conferences with an undercover FBI worker posing as a member of Cuban intelligence, Rocha repeatedly referred to the US as “the enemy” and praised Cuban revolutionary and politician Fidel Castro, in accordance with courtroom paperwork.
Rocha described being “in cost” of what he described because the “knock down of the small planes” – which prosecutors consider to be an incident throughout Rocha’s tenure working for the State Division in Havana when Cuba shot down two unarmed airplanes operated by members of Brothers to the Rescue, a US-based group against Castro’s authorities, killing 4 males.
Within the indictment, prosecutors say the Cuban authorities has labored for years to recruit individuals inside the USA to help with intelligence gathering, together with people throughout the US authorities.
As an worker of the State Division, Rocha had “distinctive” entry to personal authorities info, prosecutors mentioned.
Rocha is dealing with three federal prices, together with performing as an unlawful agent of a overseas authorities. Rocha has been arrested, a supply conversant in the matter tells CNN, and is anticipated to look in federal courtroom in Miami at the moment.
A lawyer for Rocha has not but been listed on the general public docket, and he has not but entered a proper plea.
An undercover FBI worker posing as a Cuban intelligence agent messaged Rocha on WhatsApp in November 2022 quickly after investigators had been tipped off to Rocha’s alleged covert work, courtroom paperwork say. Within the message, prosecutors say, the undercover worker mentioned that they “have a message for you from your mates in Havana. It’s with regard to a delicate matter.”
Rocha allegedly replied: “I don’t perceive however you may name me.” The previous ambassador agreed to satisfy the undercover worker in Miami to speak.
Throughout the assembly, Rocha allegedly took a number of precautions to guarantee that he wasn’t adopted, together with taking an extended path to their rendezvous, and asking the undercover worker to speak at a “meals courtroom” with solely “low-level staff… So, there isn’t a risk for – for anybody to see me.”
Throughout their first assembly, Rocha allegedly informed the undercover worker that the Cuban intelligence company, referred to as the Dirección Basic de Inteligencia, “requested me … to steer a standard life,” and mentioned that he has “created the legend of a right-wing individual.”
“I all the time informed myself, ‘The one factor that may put all the pieces we have now accomplished at risk is – is … somebody’s betrayal, somebody who might have met me, somebody who might have recognized one thing in some unspecified time in the future,” Rocha mentioned, in accordance with a recording of the assembly cited in courtroom paperwork.
He allegedly added: “My primary concern; my primary precedence was … any motion on the a part of Washington that may – would endanger the lifetime of — of the management, or the — or the revolution itself.”
Throughout one other assembly a number of weeks later, Rocha allegedly described acquiring his State Division employment to the undercover worker, saying “I went little by little … It was a really meticulous course of … very disciplined – however very disciplined.”
“I knew precisely the right way to do it and clearly the Dirección accompanied me… they knew that I knew the right way to do it… It’s a protracted course of and it wasn’t straightforward,” he mentioned, in accordance with prosecutors.
Rocha additionally allegedly boasted about his “many years” of labor on behalf of the Cuban authorities, saying that it “strengthened the revolution” over “the final 40 years,” and lamented “the blows that the enemy,” allegedly referring to the US authorities, “has dealt to the present revolution.”
Rocha presently works at consulting agency LLYC USA as a “senior worldwide enterprise advisor,” in accordance with courtroom paperwork. Rocha additionally beforehand labored as an advisor to the Commander of the USA Southern Command, which he left in 2012.
Extra just lately, Rocha labored on the regulation agency Foley & Lardner however left in August 2023, in accordance with a agency spokesperson.
CNN’s Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.
This story is breaking and can be up to date.