Former ambassador to Bolivia under Clinton, Victor Manuel Rocha, to plead guilty to serving for decades as spy for communist Cuba

March 2, 2024
by
Ben Marquis

A former career diplomat who rose to prominence during President Bill Clinton's tenure was criminally indicted in December on charges that he secretly served as a spy for the communist Cuban regime for several decades.

Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia at the end of Clinton's presidency, informed a federal judge on Thursday that he intended to plead guilty to a charge of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government, according to the Associated Press.

That plea, which will be finalized during an April 12 court hearing, came as part of a deal reached with prosecutors for his cooperation in exposing the extent of Cuba's surreptitious intelligence-gathering inside the U.S. in exchange for the dismissal of more than a dozen other serious criminal charges Rocha faced.

"One of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations"

In a Dec. 4 press release from the Justice Department, it was first revealed that former Ambassador Rocha had been a clandestine spy on behalf of the Cuban regime within the U.S. government for decades, and was only caught after he confessed his lengthy record of espionage to an undercover FBI agent that he believed was a member of the Cuban intelligence services.

"This action exposes one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement at that time. "We allege that for over 40 years, Victor Manuel Rocha served as an agent of the Cuban government and sought out and obtained positions within the United States government that would provide him with access to non-public information and the ability to affect U.S. foreign policy."

"Those who have the privilege of serving in the government of the United States are given an enormous amount of trust by the public we serve," Garland added. "To betray that trust by falsely pledging loyalty to the United States while serving a foreign power is a crime that will be met with the full force of the Justice Department."

The attorney general was echoed by FBI Director Chris Wray, who said in a statement, "Like all federal officials, U.S. diplomats swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Acting as an agent for Cuba -- a hostile foreign power -- is a blatant violation of that oath and betrays the trust of the American people."

Likely had a direct impact on U.S. policies toward Cuba

According to that DOJ press release, Rocha, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Columbia, first began working for the U.S. State Department in 1981 and, over the years, climbed the ranks to serve in a variety of increasingly important and critical diplomatic positions that had an impact of U.S. foreign policies.

That included several posts throughout Central and South America, including at least two that had direct influence over Cuba policies, as he served on the National Security Council specializing in Cuba from 1994-1995 and was the deputy principal officer at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana from 1995-1997.

Following his service as the ambassador to Bolivia from late 1999 until 2002, Rocha served as an outside adviser to the Defense Department's U.S. Southern Command based in Florida, which covers Cuba, from 2006-2012.

Held "high-level security clearances" and had access to classified information

According to CBS News, Rocha was first recruited to serve as a spy for the communist Cuban regime as early as 1973, when he lived in Chile, and he was encouraged to not only create a believable "cover story" to conceal his role as a double agent but to find a way to involve himself in the inner workings of the U.S. government.

It is unclear how much information Rocha may have shared with Cuban intelligence over the several decades he served as a spy, but it was noted that he enjoyed high-level security clearances in many of the positions he held and would have access to most classified materials.

Per the DOJ press release, Rocha was ultimately busted when he was approached several times in 2022 and 2023 by an undercover FBI agent posing as his new handler for Cuba's intelligence agency.

Rocha is said to have bragged repeatedly to that agent of the work he'd accomplished on behalf of Cuba, spoke of the U.S. as a shared "enemy" state, and praised the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro while referring to other Cuban spies as his "comrades."

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