‘Agent of Cuba’

FILE - An FBI seal is seen on a wall on Aug. 10, 2022, in Omaha, Neb. A former American diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia has been arrested in a long-running FBI counterintelligence investigation, accused of secretly serving as an agent of Cuba’s government, The Associated Press has learned.
FILE - An FBI seal is seen on a wall on Aug. 10, 2022, in Omaha, Neb. A former American diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia has been arrested in a long-running FBI counterintelligence investigation, accused of secretly serving as an agent of Cuba’s government, The Associated Press has learned. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

MIAMI — A former American diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia has been arrested in a long-running FBI counterintelligence investigation, accused of secretly serving as an agent of Cuba’s government, The Associated Press has learned.

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 promote the Cuban government’s interests. Federal law requires people doing the political bidding of a foreign government or entity inside the U.S. to register with the Justice Department, which in recent years has stepped up its criminal enforcement of illicit foreign lobbying.

The Justice Department declined to comment. It was not immediately clear if Rocha had a lawyer and a law firm where he previously worked said it was not representing him. His wife hung up when contacted by the Associated Press.

Rocha’s 25-year diplomatic career was spent under both Democratic and Republican administrations, much of it in Latin America during the Cold War, a period of sometimes heavy-handed U.S. political and military policies. His diplomatic postings included a stint at the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba during a time when the U.S. lacked full diplomatic relations with Fidel Castro’s communist government.

Born in Colombia, Rocha was raised in a working-class home in New York City and went on to obtain a succession of liberal arts degrees from Yale, Harvard and Georgetown before joining the foreign service in 1981.

He was the top U.S. diplomat in Argentina between 1997 and 2000 as a decade-long currency stabilization program backed by Washington was unraveling under the weight of huge foreign debt and stagnant growth, triggering a political crisis that would see the South American country cycle through five presidents in two weeks.

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