Former US ambassador admits having been an agent of Cuba for decades

MIAMI.- The former ambassador of USAManuel Rocha, confirmed that he will plead guilty to accusations of being an agent of Cuba for decades, bringing an unexpectedly quick end to a case that prosecutors say was one of the most daring betrayals in the history of the American diplomatic service.

Rocha, 73, told a juez that he will admit to federal charges of conspiring to be an agent of a foreign government, accusations that could put him behind bars for years. His attorney indicated that prosecutors have agreed to a sentence, but it was not disclosed in court Thursday.

On April 12, he will officially admit his guilt before Judge Beth Bloom, who will then inform him of his sentence.

Rocha’s work was “one of the most far-reaching and longest-running infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement released in December following the alleged spy’s arrest.

According to the complaint, Rocha, a 73-year-old American born in Colombia, “secretly supported the Republic of Cuba and its clandestine intelligence gathering mission against the United States” from around 1981 until his arrest.

To help the communist government of Cuba, a staunch enemy of Washington, the accused obtained a job in the State Department between 1981 and 2002.

There he held positions that gave him access to high-level, non-public information as well as the ability to influence American foreign policy, according to the attorney general.

Between 1999 and mid-2002, he was the US ambassador in La Paz, where he caused great controversy by threatening to withdraw US aid to the Bolivian war on drugs if the leftist and former coca grower unionist Evo Morales won the elections.

Rocha admitted to having worked for Cuba for “40 years” in several meetings in 2022 and 2023 with an undercover FBI agent posing as a representative of Cuba’s General Directorate of Intelligence.

The Prosecutor’s Office accuses him of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government; act as an agent of a foreign government without the prior consent of its administration; and using a U.S. passport obtained through false statements.

Several cases of espionage have tarnished relations between the United States and Cuba, which have been at odds since the island’s communist revolution in 1959, in the midst of the Cold War.

The administration of Joe Biden extended for one more year national state of emergency with respect to Cuba, thus maintaining the prohibition of access to Cuban ports for ships under the flag of USA. This measure, which has been extended by each administration since 1996, originated in response to the downing by the Cuban regime of two Hermanos al Rescate planes.

The decision, according to review Cuban Diaryannounced through a statement signed by Biden and published in the Federal Register for communication to the United States Congress, maintains the continuity of the state of national emergency established on March 1, 1996 through Proclamation 6867.

This state of emergency was established “to address the disruption or threat of disruption of international relations caused by the destruction by the Cuban Government on February 24, 1996 of two unarmed civilian aircraft registered to the United States in the airspace north of Cuba”.

Furthermore, in 2004, this regulation was expanded with Proclamation 7757, which announced the denial of any monetary and material support to the Cuban regime.

FOUNTAIN: With information from AP/Diario de Cuba