A former high-level U.S. official was charged with acting as a spy on behalf of the Cuban government over decades, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Monday.
Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, served in various roles in government and the military since 1981 and allegedly used his powers at the time to act as a spy for Cuban intelligence, according to the DOJ. Rocha was arrested on Sunday and charged on Monday for conspiracy, acting as a foreign agent and making false statements to acquire government-issued identification.
“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 on Monday. “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.”
Rocha first began working as a spy for Cuba’s General Directorate of Intelligence in 1981, around the same time he also began working in the U.S. State Department, the DOJ said on Monday. He held several different positions in the State Department over the span of two decades, including as a diplomat, an official on the National Security Council and as U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia.
Rocha then became an advisor to the commander of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) from roughly 2006 to 2012, according to the DOJ. USSOUTHCOM is a military joint command that operates in several Latin American and Caribbean regions, including Cuba.
Rocha was conducting espionage on behalf of the Cuban government for the entire duration of his U.S. government service, and would have had access to classified information and the ability to influence foreign policy in his various roles, according to the DOJ. He provided the U.S. government with false information to keep his operation secret and covertly met with Cuban intelligence officials during this time.
On multiple occasions in 2022 and 2023, Rocha met with an FBI agent posing as a Cuban intelligence official in Florida to discuss continuing his work as a spy, according to the DOJ. During the meetings, Rocha referred to the United States as “the enemy,” celebrated former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro as “Comandante” (commander) and referred to other officials in Cuba’s General Directorate of Intelligence as his “Compañeros” (comrades).
When the undercover agent told Rocha that he was “a covert representative here in Miami” sent to “contact you, introduce myself as your new contact, and establish a new communication plan,” Rocha told him “yes,” according to the DOJ.
Cuba’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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