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United States: former US ambassador who was a spy for Cuba sentenced to 15 years in prison

Víctor Manuel Rocha was arrested in early December after several meetings with an FBI member who posed as a Cuban agent.

Officially, Víctor Manuel Rocha was an American diplomat. Behind the scenes, he actually spied on the United States for decades on behalf of Cuba, Washington’s historic enemy. This former US ambassador was sentenced this Friday, April 12 in Miami to 15 years in prison.

Víctor Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested in early December, accused of being a mole for the communist government in Havana while rising through the ranks of American diplomacy, having access to confidential documents and influence over American foreign policy.

The former diplomat, who had pleaded guilty, was sentenced “to the maximum penalty authorized by law,” according to Judge Beth Bloom, after a three and a half hour hearing. The sentence was also accompanied by a fine of $500,000.

This case is “one of the longest infiltrations, affecting at the most significant levels, of a foreign agent within the American State,” estimated the Minister of Justice at the time of his accusation, Merrick Garland.

“For more than 40 years, Mr. Rocha worked as an undercover agent of the Cuban State,” before an FBI investigation detained him, the minister told reporters.

Ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002

Víctor Manuel Rocha held very high positions in US diplomacy: before ending his career in the State Department as ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002, he was a member of the National Security Council, a White House body, from 1994 to 1995. , during the presidency of Bill Clinton. He was also stationed at numerous U.S. embassies in Latin America, including the one in Havana, according to a court document.

Born in Colombia and a naturalized American, Víctor Manuel Rocha began working for the main intelligence agency of the communist government of Cuba as early as 1981, according to the investigation. Even after leaving the State Department in 2002, after about 30 years of service, he continued his spy work for Cuba, according to the Justice Department.

He was mistaken by a member of the US federal police (FBI) who posed, in 2022 and 2023, as an agent of the Cuban intelligence services, according to a court document. Víctor Manuel Rocha, carefully avoiding being followed, went to a meeting with this false Cuban agent, who hid a microphone and a camera to record him.

He spoke of his “comrades” in Cuba, asked the false liaison agent to send his “warm greetings” to the intelligence directorate in Havana or spoke of the “great sacrifice” that his life as a secret agent meant for him.

“More than a Grand Slam”

What he did for “almost 40 years” for the communist government of Havana is “enormous,” “more than a Grand Slam,” he congratulated himself during a second meeting in Miami with the same agent.

The former ambassador, who lives in Miami, “always referred to the United States as ‘the enemy’ and used the word ‘we’ to describe Cuba and himself,” the Justice Department said in December.

Numerous cases of espionage have tarnished relations between both countries, enemies since the communist revolution in Cuba in 1959, in the middle of the Cold War.

In 2001, Ana Montes, a military intelligence analyst, was arrested for espionage and admitted to collecting intelligence for nearly a decade for Cuba. And in 2010, American diplomat Kendall Myers was sentenced to life in prison, convicted of having spied for 30 years for Havana.

The CIA, for its part, attempted on numerous occasions to assassinate Cuban leaders, after the failure of the Bay of Pigs landing in 1961. Cuba has been subject to a United States embargo since 1962 and remains on its list of countries that support terrorism. . .

Author: Vincent Gautier with AFP
Source: BFM TV

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