U.S. ambassador appointed by Bill Clinton sentenced to 15 years in prison for spying for Cuba

 April 13, 2024

Victor Manuel Rocha, a former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia appointed by President Bill Clinton, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for spying on behalf of communist Cuba.

Rocha pled guilty to charges that he worked for Cuba's spy service for decades on Friday. Prosecutors described Rocha's case as the longest-running betrayal of the U.S. government in history.

Rocha allegedly spent 40 years spying for Cuba and planned to fight the charges when he denied his guilt in February.

However, it quickly became apparent that the case against him was too strong and Rocha opted to take the easy way out by pleading guilty and catching 15 years in prison which seems extraordinarily lenient.

Soft plea deal for communist spy

Prosecutors gave Rocha a plea deal for 15 years and U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom took issue with that in the hearing on Friday.

Since Rocha's citizenship was left intact and no recourse for possible victims was discussed, some expected Judge Bloom to reject the plea deal on the grounds that it was too lenient.

However, prosecutors defended their plea deal stating that since Rocha is 73, there is a strong chance that he will die in prison before his release day in 2039.

The plea deal was also amended to include restitution for potential victims of Rocha's spying activities.

The question of his citizenship is still undecided and will likely be decided in a future civil case.

David Newman, a top national security official at the Justice Department, issued a statement saying, "For most of his life, Mr. Rocha lived a lie. While holding various senior positions in the U.S. government, he was secretly acting as the Cuban government's agent. That is a staggering betrayal of the American people."

Rocha's spying activities

While Rocha will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, there are still questions that need to be answered about how a double agent was allowed to spy on the United States for Cuba for nearly half a century.

Rocha first joined the State Department in 1981 and bounced around a handful of different positions for the next two decades. He became an ambassador thanks to Bill Clinton and that raises questions about how many other individuals with other loyalties have climbed the ranks.

The FBI began their investigation of Rocha in 2022 and when he met with an undercover agent he reportedly referred to the U.S. as "the enemy."

Rocha also reportedly told the agent that “What has been done, has strengthened the Revolution. It has strengthened it immensely." In light of that, 15 years in prison seems criminally soft. Capital punishment for such a betrayal would be more appropriate.

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