Web Stories Sunday, April 21

The former US ambassador to Bolivia informed a federal judge Thursday that he will plead guilty to charges related to a decades-long effort to spy on the US government for communist Cuba.  

Manuel Rocha, 73, told US District Court Judge Beth Bloom that he agreed to a deal offered by federal prosecutors that would see 13 criminal counts against him, including wire fraud and making false statements, dropped in exchange for his admission to conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government.

The two counts he will cop to carry a maximum sentence of between five and 10 years in prison.

Manuel Rocha told US District Court Judge Beth Bloom he would admit to federal counts of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government — which included wire fraud and making false statements. AP

However, prosecutors and an attorney for the career diplomat noted that a sentence for Rocha had also been agreed upon,the details of which were not disclosed. 

Rocha will formally plead guilty and be handed his sentence at an April 12 hearing. 

The Justice Department charged Rocha in December, accusing him of working as a secret agent for the Cuban government’s top intelligence agency since 1981, the same year he began his long career at the State Department. 

Rocha held high-ranking positions in several embassies and even the White House, during the Clinton administration, during his more than 20 years in public service, which the DOJ says  provided him access to nonpublic and classified information “and the ability to affect US foreign policy.” 

Between 2006 and 2012, after leaving the State Department, Rocha served as an advisor to the US Southern Command, a Miami-based joint military command post of the Department of Defense whose area of responsibility includes Cuba.

Manuel Rocha held high-ranking positions in several embassies — even the White House. AP

To keep the ruse up, the Colombian-born Rocha portrayed himself as a Cuba hardliner, opposed to the communist regime, according to prosecutors

He was arrested after a series of meetings with undercover FBI agents posing as Cuban intelligence officials, during which Rocha acknowledged the “decades” of spying he had done on behalf of Cuba, spanning “40 years.” 

Rocha referred to the US as “the enemy” and praised the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro during his meetings with the undercover FBI agents, according to the DOJ. 

The charges against Manuel Rocha could land him behind bars for several years. AP

The US government has not revealed what information Rocha might have provided Cuba or how he may have influenced US policy toward the island.

In December, Attorney General Merrick Garland described Rocha as having performed one of the “longest-lasting infiltrations” of the US by a foreign agent. 

Carlos Trujillo, a Miami attorney who served as U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States during the Trump administration, slammed Rocha’s plea deal as a slap on the wrist.

“Any sentence that allows him to see the light of day again would not be justice,” Trujillo told the Associated Press. “He’s a spy for a foreign adversary who put American lives at risk.”

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