US ex-diplomat sentenced to 15 years for spying for Cuba over decades

US ex-diplomat sentenced to 15 years for spying for Cuba over decades


Victor Manuel Rocha, who served as US ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former U.S. diplomat was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Friday after admitting to acting as an agent of Cuba in what the Justice Department has called one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the U.S. government.

Victor Manuel Rocha, who served as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002, pleaded guilty to two charges including acting as an illegal foreign agent. He was initially charged in December.

Rocha, 73, secretly supported Cuba’s ruling Communist Party and aided the country’s intelligence gathering against Washington for more than four decades, including during a 20-year career in the State Department, according to U.S. prosecutors.

"Today's plea brings an end to more than four decades of betrayal and deceit by Mr. Rocha," David Newman, a senior national security official at the U.S. Justice Department said during a press conference in Miami. "For most of his life, Mr. Rocha lived a lie."

Rocha admitted his decades of work for Cuba and boasted about his ability to avoid detection in a series of meetings in 2022 and 2023 with an undercover FBI agent who posed as a representative of Cuba’s foreign intelligence service, according to a criminal complaint filed in Miami federal court.

“What we have done…it’s enormous. More than a grand slam,” Rocha told the undercover agent, according to the complaint.

A lawyer for Rocha did not respond to requests for comment. Rocha agreed to plead guilty as part of a deal with federal prosecutors that requires him to divulge details of his interactions with Cuban intelligence.

But US officials said they may never know the full extent of Rocha's cooperation with Havana. Rocha sought out positions that would give him access to sensitive information and influence over U.S. foreign policy, according to prosecutors.

Rocha worked for the State Department from 1981 to 2002, including as a member of the White House’s National Security Council from 1994 to 1995, according to court documents.