A former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia is accused of calling Cuban dictator Fidel Castro ‘Comandante’ and describing the United States as the ‘enemy,’ according to an unsealed criminal complaint Monday.
At the top of a meeting of the DOJ’s Reproductive Rights Task Force, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland first announced a ‘significant national security related enforcement action’ the Justice Department has taken in charging Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, with ‘illegally acting as an agent of a foreign government.’
Rocha, who is from Miami, Florida, is a former U.S. Department of State employee who served on the National Security Council from 1994 to 1995 and ultimately as U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002.
His service also included deputy principal officer at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba, Garland said.
After leaving the State Department, Rocha served as adviser to the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, a joint command of the United States military whose area of responsibility includes Cuba, from about 2006 to 2012.
‘This action exposes one of the highest reaching and longest lasting infiltrations of U.S. government by a foreign agent,’ Garland said. ‘Specifically, the criminal complaint alleges that for over 40 years, Rocha acted as a covert agent of the Cuban government. That, and the complaint alleges, Rocha sought out employment with U.S. government that would provide him with access to nonpublic information and the ability to affect U.S. foreign policy.’
The complaint outlines actions Rocha took allegedly ‘in support Cuba’s clandestine intelligence gathering mission against the United States.’
Rocha repeatedly referred to the United States as ‘the enemy’ during discussions with an undercover FBI agent, the complaint says.
He also allegedly told the undercover agent that his efforts to infiltrate the United States government were ‘meticulous and very disciplined’ and he repeatedly bragged about the significance of his efforts, saying that ‘what has been done has strengthened the revolution immensely,’ Garland said.
When the undercover agent told Rocha he was ‘a covert representative here in Miami’ whose mission was ‘to contact you, introduce myself as your new contact, and establish a new communication plan,’ Rocha answered, ‘Yes,’ and proceeded to engage in a lengthy conversation during which he described and celebrated his activity as a Cuban intelligence agent, according to the complaint. Throughout the meetings, Rocha behaved as a Cuban agent and used the term ‘we’ to describe himself and Cuba, prosecutors say.
Rocha additionally praised Fidel Castro as the ‘Comandante,’ and referred to his contacts in Cuban intelligence as his ‘Compañeros’ (comrades) and to the Cuban intelligence services as the ‘Dirección,’ the complaint says. Rocha allegedly also described his work as a Cuban agent as ‘a grand slam.’
The FBI arrested Rocha on Friday in Miami and he will make his first court appearance in the Southern District of Florida on Monday afternoon, Garland said.
‘Those who have the privilege of serving in the government of the United States are given an enormous amount of trust by the public we serve,’ Garland said Monday. ‘To betray that trust, by falsely pledging loyalty to the United States while serving a foreign power is a crime that will be met with the full force of the Justice Department.
As the only Cuban-born member of Congress, Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., reacted Sunday to reports of Rochas’ arrest for allegedly spying for Cuba, calling for the ‘immediate implementation of sanctions against the Castro regime’ and a full investigation.