Former US ambassador arrested in Miami accused of being an agent of the Cuban regime

MIAMI – A former US diplomat who served as US ambassador to Bolivia was arrested in a lengthy counterintelligence investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, accused of secretly serving as an agent of the Cuban regimeThe Associated Press learned.

Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested in Miami on Friday on a criminal complaint and more details about the case are expected to be made public at his court appearance Monday, said two people who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they did not. They were authorized. to discuss an ongoing federal investigation.

One of the people said the Justice Department case accuses Rocha of working to advance the interests of the Cuban regime. Federal law requires people who carry out political orders from a foreign government or entity within the United States to register with the Department of Justice, which in recent years has stepped up its criminal enforcement of illicit foreign lobbying.

The Justice Department declined to comment. It was not immediately clear if Rocha had an attorney, and a law firm where he previously worked said it did not represent him. His wife hung up when the AP contacted her.

Career of the former ambassador and relationship with Cuba

Rocha’s 25-year diplomatic career was spent under both Democratic and Republican administrations, much of it in Latin America during the Cold War, a period of sometimes harsh American political and military policies.

His diplomatic posts included a stint in the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba during a time when the United States lacked full diplomatic relations with Fidel Castro’s communist regime.

Born in Colombia, Rocha was raised in a working-class home in New York City and earned a succession of liberal arts degrees at Yale, Harvard, and Georgetown before joining the Foreign Service in 1981.

He was the top U.S. diplomat in Argentina between 1997 and 2000, as a decade-long monetary stabilization program backed by Washington was crumbling under the weight of massive foreign debt and stagnant growth, triggering a political crisis that would cause the South American country will go through five years. presidents in two weeks.

In his next post as ambassador to Bolivia, he intervened directly in the 2002 presidential race, warning weeks before the vote that the United States would cut off aid to the poor South American country if it elected former coca farmer Evo Morales.

“I want to remind the Bolivian electorate that if they vote for those who want Bolivia to export cocaine again, that will seriously jeopardize any future aid to Bolivia from the United States,” Rocha said in a speech that was widely interpreted as an attempt to maintain American dominance in the region.

The tactic infuriated the Bolivians and gave Morales a last-minute boost. When he was finally elected three years later, the leftist leader expelled Rocha’s successor as head of the diplomatic mission for inciting “civil war.”

Rocha also served in Italy, Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and worked as a Latin America expert for the National Security Council.

Rocha’s wife, Karla Wittkop Rocha, declined to comment when contacted by the AP. “I don’t need to talk to you,” she said before hanging up.

After his retirement from the State Department, Rocha began a second career in business, serving as president of a gold mine in the Dominican Republic, partially owned by the Canadian Barrick Gold.

Most recently, he held senior positions at XCoal, a Pennsylvania-based coal exporter; Clover Leaf Capital, a company formed to facilitate mergers in the cannabis industry; the law firm Foley & Lardner and the Spanish public relations firms Llorente & Cuenca.

“Our firm remains committed to transparency and will closely monitor the situation, cooperating fully with authorities if we have any information available,” Darío Álvarez, CEO of Llorente & Cuenca’s U.S. operations, said in an email.

XCoal and Clover Leaf Capital did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Foley & Lardner said Rocha left the law firm in August.

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