Former US Ambassador Sentenced to 15 Years over Spying for Cuba

Sat Apr 13 2024
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MIAMI, United States: A former US ambassador who pleaded guilty to spying for Cuba for more than 40 years was sentenced Friday in federal court to 15 years in prison.

Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested in December in what US officials called “one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent.”

Rocha pleaded not guilty in February to conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government, but later pleaded guilty to federal prosecutors.

Judge Beth Bloom said Friday after three and a half hearings in Miami that she would give Rocha the maximum sentence permitted by law.

In addition to 15 years in prison, Rocha was sentenced to a fine of $500,000.

U.S. officials say Rocha, a U.S. citizen with Colombian citizenship, began assisting Havana in 1981 as an undercover agent for Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence (DGI), and his espionage efforts continued until his arrest.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Rocha’s arrest in December, saying he had repeatedly referred to the United States as the “enemy” and “repeatedly boasted of the importance of his efforts.”

Rocha joined the State Department in 1981 and rose through the ranks as a career diplomat, holding posts in Havana, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, and Washington.

Rocha served on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 1995 and was the country’s ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002 under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. He was also an advisor to the US military staff in charge of Cuba.

The criminal complaint against Rocha explains how, over several meetings with an undercover FBI agent beginning in November 2022, he “behaved as a Cuban agent,” praising the communist-ruled island’s late leader Fidel Castro and “using the term ‘we’ to describe himself and Cuba.”

The former diplomat’s arrest and conviction come around 15 years after the indictment of an American couple Walter Kendall Myers and Gwendolyn Myers, who spied for Cuba for nearly 30 years.

Kendall Myers was handed down life imprisonment, while his wife was sentenced to over five years.


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