A former career United States diplomat was charged Monday with being a secret agent for communist Cuba for decades in what prosecutors described as one of the most brazen and prolonged betrayals in the history of the US foreign service.
Court documents accuse the former diplomat, Manuel Rocha, of engaging in “covert activities” on behalf of Cuba since at least 1981, including meeting with Cuban intelligence agents and providing false information to US government officials about his official travel and contacts.
The lawsuit, which has been filed in federal court in Miami, charges Rocha with crimes including acting as an illegal agent of a foreign government and provides a vivid case study of what US officials say is a long-running effort by Cuba and its notoriously sophisticated intelligence agency to targeting government officials who could be considered traitors.
“This action uncovers one of the most far-reaching and longest-running infiltrations of the United States government, (carried out) by foreign agents,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“Breaking that trust, by falsely declaring allegiance to the United States while serving a foreign country is a crime that will be pursued with the fullest efforts of the Department of Justice.”
Rocha, 73, whose two-decade career as a US diplomat included key posts in Bolivia, Argentina and the Interests Section for the US government in Havana, was arrested at his home in Miami on Friday (1/12). He cried while sitting handcuffed during his first court appearance on Monday and was ordered detained pending a bail hearing on Wednesday (6/12). His lawyer declined to comment.
The Justice Department did not reveal how Rocha came to the attention of Cuban intelligence agents nor did it explain what sensitive information, if any, he may have provided during his time in government.
Instead, the case hinges largely on what prosecutors say is Rocha’s own confession, given over the past year to FBI agents, posing as Cuban intelligence agents.
Rocha praised late Cuban leader Fidel Castro as “Comandante,” branded the U.S. an “enemy” and bragged about his more than 40 years of service as a Cuban mole at the heart of the State Department and elite U.S. foreign policy circles, the lawsuit says. (ns/lt)