Ex-US diplomat arrested in Miami for allegedly acting as a Cuban agent - Hindustan Times
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Ex-US diplomat arrested in Miami for allegedly acting as a Cuban agent

Dec 04, 2023 10:40 AM IST

Former US ambassador arrested in Miami by FBI on charges of acting as a covert agent for Cuba. The diplomatic career is under scrutiny.

A former US ambassador to Bolivia, Manuel Rocha, 73, was taken into custody in Miami on Friday by the FBI on charges of secretly acting as an agent of Cuba, according to two sources who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

Manuel Rocha, former high-ranking diplomat, faces charges of unlawful Cuban advocacy in the US(AFP via Getty Images)
Manuel Rocha, former high-ranking diplomat, faces charges of unlawful Cuban advocacy in the US(AFP via Getty Images)

AP reported that Rocha is accused of working to advance the interests of the Cuban government inside the US, without registering with the justice department as required by law. The Justice Department has been cracking down on illegal foreign lobbying in recent years. The sources said that more details about the case will be revealed at a court hearing on Monday.

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Rocha had a long and distinguished diplomatic career that spanned 25 years and both Democratic and Republican administrations. He specialized in Latin America during the cold war era, when the US pursued a range of political and military interventions in the region. He also served in the US Interests Section in Cuba, when the US and Cuba did not have full diplomatic ties under Fidel Castro’s regime.

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Rocha was born in Colombia and grew up in a working-class family in New York City. He earned degrees from Yale, Harvard and Georgetown before joining the foreign service in 1981. He was the US ambassador to Argentina from 1997 to 2000, during a period of economic and political turmoil that saw the country default on its massive foreign debt and go through five presidents in two weeks.

He then became the US ambassador to Bolivia, where he meddled in the 2002 presidential election, threatening to cut off US aid to the country if the voters elected Evo Morales, a former coca farmer and leftist leader.

“I want to remind the Bolivian electorate that if they vote for those who want Bolivia to return to exporting cocaine, that will seriously jeopardize any future aid to Bolivia from the United States,″ Rocha said in a speech that was widely seen as an attempt to maintain US hegemony in the region.

His intervention backfired, as Morales won the election three years later and expelled Rocha’s successor for inciting “civil war”.

Rocha's career also included service in Italy, Honduras, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, along with his role as a Latin America specialist for the National Security Council.

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After retiring from the state department, Rocha embarked on a second career in business, holding senior positions at a gold mine in the Dominican Republic partly owned by Canada’s Barrick Gold, a coal exporter in Pennsylvania, a cannabis merger company, a law firm and a Spanish public relations firm.

“Our firm remains committed to transparency and will closely monitor the situation, cooperating fully with the authorities if any information becomes available to us,” Dario Alvarez, CEO of Llorente & Cuenca’s US operations, said in an email.

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