Former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia accused of spying for Cuba for decades


Washington — A former top U.S. diplomat who most recently served as America’s ambassador to Bolivia was arrested Friday and charged with acting as a foreign agent of Cuba, according to court documents.

Beginning as early as 1981 and continuing through to the present day, Manuel Rocha — a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Cuba and currently living in Miami — allegedly spied on behalf of the island nation’s intelligence agency, referring to the U.S. as “the enemy” and supported Cuba’s clandestine intelligence-gathering mission, according to prosecutors.

While the indictment does not provide details about the information that prosecutors allege Rocha shared with the Cubans during the decades he is accused of working with them, charging documents describe an ongoing relationship he fostered with Cuban handlers.

Working with unnamed conspirators inside Cuba’s intelligence community, Rocha allegedly “agreed to act and did act as a clandestine agent of the Cuban government,” charging documents revealed.

First, as a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic, Rocha moved his way up through various diplomatic posts in the region, charging documents say, including as director of Inter-American Affairs for the U.S. National Security Council. That role, according to prosecutors, gave him special responsibility over Cuban policy.

Investigators said Rocha had access to sensitive information as an employee of the State Department, signed nondisclosure agreements and was required to “affirm his loyalties to the United States and absence of covert activity on behalf of any foreign nation.”

And from 2006 through 2012, Rocha was an adviser to the commander of the joint command of the U.S. military in the region, which included Cuba.

Court documents say unspecified evidence from the investigation, coupled with numerous meetings in recent years between Rocha and an undercover FBI agent, led prosecutors to bring the charges.

Throughout three meetings in 2022 and 2023, investigators allege Rocha discussed his decades-long partnership with Cuban intelligence, telling the undercover agent during their first meeting outside a Church in Miami, “My number one priority was …any action on the part of Washington that would – would endanger the life of — of the leadership…revolution itself.”

“I have to protect what we did because what we did…the cement that has strengthened the last 40 years,” Rocha allegedly told the undercover agent during their second meeting, “What we have done…it’s enormous…More than a grand slam.”

And in June 2023, during their last meeting, the undercover agent asked Rocha if he was “still with us.”

“I am angry. I’m pissed off…It’s like questioning my manhood,” Rocha allegedly responded.

Rocha is set to appear in federal court for an initial appearance Monday afternoon in Miami.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said at an event Monday, “This action exposes one of the furthest reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the U.S. government by a foreign agent.”

The charges against Rocha come almost a year after another a Cuban spy was freed from prison after more than 20 years behind bars. Ana Montes, a former analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency, spied for Cuba for 17 years, revealing the identities of the United States’ undercover intelligence officers and its highly sensitive collection capabilities, until her arrest in 2001.

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