Manuel Rocha was arrested last Friday in Miami
A former U.S. diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia has been arrested in a lengthy FBI counterintelligence investigation, accused of secretly serving as an agent of the Cuban government, The Associated Press has learned.
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Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested in Miami on Friday on a criminal complaint and more details about the case are expected to be made public at a court appearance Monday, said two people who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. because they were not authorized to discuss an ongoing federal investigation.
One of the people said the Justice Department case accuses Rocha of working to advance the interests of the Cuban regime. Federal law requires people who work for a foreign government or entity inside the United States to register with the Department of Justice, which in recent years has stepped up its criminal crackdown on illicit foreign lobbyists.
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The Justice Department declined to comment. It was unclear whether Rocha had an attorney and a law firm she previously worked at said she did not represent him. His wife hung up the phone when the AP contacted him.
The 25-year-old Rocha’s diplomatic career spanned under Democratic and Republican administrations, much of it in Latin America during the Cold War, a period of sometimes heavy-handed U.S. policies and military. His diplomatic appointments included a stint in the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, at a time when the United States lacked full diplomatic relations with the communist government of Fidel Castro.
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Born in Colombia, Rocha grew up in a working-class home in New York and earned a series of liberal arts degrees at Yale, Harvard, and Georgetown before joining the Foreign Service in 1981.
He was the top U.S. diplomat in Argentina between 1997 and 2000, when a decade-long monetary stabilization program backed by Washington was crumbling under the weight of massive foreign debt and stagnant growth, triggering a political crisis that would lead the country South American to go through five presidents in two weeks.
In his next post as ambassador to Bolivia, he intervened directly in the 2002 presidential race, warning weeks before the vote that the United States would cut off aid to the poor South American country if it elected former coca farmer Evo Morales.
“I want to remind the Bolivian electorate that if they vote for those who want Bolivia to export cocaine again, that will seriously jeopardize any future aid from the United States to Bolivia,” Rocha said in a speech that was widely interpreted as an attempt to maintain dominance. of the United States in the region.
The tactic worked, but three years later Bolivians elected Morales anyway and the leftist leader would expel Rocha’s successor as head of the diplomatic mission for inciting “civil war.”
Rocha also served in Italy, Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and worked as a Latin America expert for the National Security Council.
Rocha’s wife, Karla Wittkop Rocha, declined to comment when contacted by the AP. “I don’t need to talk to you,” she said before hanging up.
Following his retirement from the State Department, Rocha began a second career in the business world, as president of a gold mine in the Dominican Republic owned in part by the Canadian Barrick Gold.
Most recently, he has held senior positions at XCoal, a Pennsylvania-based coal exporter; Clover Leaf Capital, a company created to facilitate mergers in the cannabis sector; the law firm Foley & Lardner and the Spanish public relations firm Llorente & Cuenca.
“Our firm remains committed to transparency and will closely monitor the situation, cooperating fully with authorities if we have any information,” Darío Álvarez, general director of Llorente & Cuenca’s U.S. operations, said in an email. .
(With information from AP)