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Former US envoy jailed for spying

Victor Manuel Rocha pleaded guilty for working as an agent for Cuba for more than 40 years

Former US Ambassador Victor Manuel Rocha has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for spying for Cuba, US media reported on Friday, citing court documents.

Rocha, who was born in Colombia and became a naturalized US citizen in 1978, worked for the US State Department from 1981 to 2002, serving in a variety of diplomatic positions, including as the deputy principal officer of the US Interests Section in Cuba and later as a US envoy to Bolivia and Argentina.

The 73-year-old former diplomat was arrested in December 2023 on allegations that he had engaged in intelligence gathering against Washington for the Cuban government. The arrest came after several meetings between the former envoy and an undercover FBI agent posing as a representative of Cuba’s General Directorate of Intelligence. According to court documents, during these meetings, Rocha repeatedly referred to the US as “the enemy,” praised the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and admitted to his work as a spy.

Rocha initially pleaded not guilty at a hearing in February, but later changed his plea in order to avoid a trial.

On Friday, Rocha pleaded guilty to two charges – conspiring to defraud the US as a foreign agent and acting as an illegal agent of a foreign government without registering with the US authorities. Another 13 counts of charges against him, including lying to investigators and wire fraud, were dropped under the plea agreement. In addition to 15 years in prison, which, given Rocha’s age, effectively constitute a life sentence, the former diplomat faces three years of supervised release, and a $500,000 fine.

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The prosecutors said that under the plea deal, the former diplomat will have to share “a full, detailed damage assessment of that harm that was committed” with the US authorities. The deal also contains a stipulation that the US government may seek to denaturalize Rocha and that he remains liable for restitution if victims of his actions ever speak up.

“Today’s plea brings an end to more than four decades of betrayal and deceit by Mr. Rocha. For most of his life, Mr. Rocha lived a lie,” David Newman, a senior national security official at the US Justice Department, said at a press conference in Miami following Rocha’s hearing.

Commenting on Rocha’s actions, US Attorney General Merrick Garland described them as “one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the US government by a foreign agent.”

 

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