Diplomat’s shocking arrest exposes decades-long espionage

MIAMI, FL — Manuel Rocha, a former career diplomat with the United States, has been charged with acting as a covert agent for communist Cuba for over four decades. The charges, which were filed in Miami federal court, accuse Rocha of engaging in “clandestine activity” on behalf of Cuba since at least 1981. Prosecutors are portraying this as one of the most significant and long-running betrayals in the history of the U.S. foreign service.

During his court appearance, Rocha was visibly emotional as he sat handcuffed. The 73-year-old diplomat is accused of meeting with Cuban intelligence operatives and providing false information to U.S. government officials about his contacts. While the complaint lacks specific details about how Rocha may have assisted Cuba, it offers insight into the efforts made by Cuba’s sophisticated intelligence services to target American officials and recruit them as agents.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland described the case as “one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent.” Garland emphasized that betraying the trust placed in diplomats by falsely pledging loyalty to the United States while serving a foreign power is a crime that will be dealt with severely by the Justice Department.

Rocha, who served over two decades as a U.S. diplomat, including in senior posts in Bolivia, Argentina, and the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, was arrested by the FBI at his Miami residence last Friday. He made a brief court appearance on Monday, declining to comment. Rocha is currently being held in custody, and a hearing is set for Wednesday regarding his bond.

The case against Rocha primarily relies on his own admissions, which were made over the past year to an undercover FBI agent posing as a Cuban intelligence operative known as “Miguel.” Rocha allegedly praised the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, referred to the U.S. as the “enemy,” and boasted about his service as a Cuban mole within U.S. foreign policy circles for more than four decades. The undercover encounters took place in discrete locations in downtown Miami, where Rocha engaged in counter-surveillance “tradecraft” allegedly taught by Cuban spymasters.

Rocha’s arrest has raised concerns about the extent of Cuba’s infiltration into the U.S. government and the potential damage caused by its intelligence operations. The case marks a rare instance of an American diplomat being accused of betraying their oath. Previous cases involving individuals working on behalf of Cuba include the conviction of a former State Department official, Walter Kendall Myers, and the release of Ana Belen Montes, a former U.S. defense intelligence analyst, earlier this year after serving a lengthy sentence for spying for Cuba.