United States

Former US Ambassador To Bolivia Unmasked As Cuban Spy, Sentenced To 15 Years

Ex- US ambassador Victor Manuel Rocha has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for espionage on behalf of Cuba. Rocha admitted to passing classified information to the Cuban government over four decades.

AP
Former US ambassador to Bolivia Victor Manuel Rocha has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for espionage. Photo: AP
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Former US ambassador to Bolivia, Victor Manuel Rocha, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for espionage on behalf of Cuba, marking one of the most significant cases between the two nations. Rocha, 73, admitted to passing classified information to the Cuban government over a span of more than four decades.

Appearing in a Miami courtroom on Friday dressed in a beige jail uniform, Rocha changed his plea to guilty, avoiding a trial. Alongside the prison sentence, he was fined $500,000 and is required to cooperate with authorities.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland characterized Rocha's actions as "one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the US government by a foreign agent." Rocha, a Colombian-born diplomat educated at Yale and Harvard, served as US ambassador to Bolivia from 1999 to 2022 and held various diplomatic positions in Latin America.

The case came to light when an undercover FBI agent contacted Rocha on WhatsApp in November 2022, posing as a Cuban intelligence operative. Rocha revealed details of his espionage activities during subsequent meetings, expressing loyalty to the Cuban regime.

The US-Cuba relationship has been strained since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, leading to a trade embargo. Efforts to normalize relations under Presidents Obama and Raul Castro were partly reversed by the Trump administration.

Former CIA counter-intelligence chief James Olson described Rocha as a "traitor," emphasizing the success of Cuba's intelligence service in penetrating US institutions. He condemned Rocha's actions, asserting that he may never be released from prison.

Rocha's case underscores the enduring geopolitical tensions between the US and Cuba, with espionage serving as a persistent flashpoint. The sentencing also raises questions about the effectiveness of counterintelligence measures and the vulnerabilities within diplomatic circles.

Rocha's decades-long career in diplomacy highlights the potential for foreign influence within the highest echelons of government. The revelation of his espionage activities may prompt a reevaluation of security protocols and background checks for individuals in sensitive positions.

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