The Harry S Truman Building, headquarters of U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., is shown in a file photo. Longtime State Department employee and U.S. diplomat Victor Manuel Rocha was charged Monday with acting as a double-agent for Cuba over a 40-year span. File Photo by Chris Corder/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 4 (UPI) -- A former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia and member of the National Security Council has been arrested and charged with secretly acting as an agent of the government of Cuba, U.S. officials said Monday.
Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, of Miami, committed "multiple federal crimes" over a period of decades while acting as a clandestine agent for Cuba, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced in a statement.
"We allege that for over 40 years, Victor Manuel Rocha served as an agent of the Cuban government and sought out and obtained positions within the United States government that would provide him with access to non-public information and the ability to affect U.S. foreign policy," Garland said.
Rocha, he said, betrayed the trust of United States while serving a foreign power, "a crime that will be met with the full force of the Justice Department."
FBI Director Christopher Wray added that Rocha broke an oath sworn to by all U.S. diplomats "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States" and promised his agency will "find and hold accountable anyone who violates their oath to the United States, no matter how long it takes."
Rocha is a former State Department employee who served as director of Inter-American Affairs on the National Security Council from 1994 to 1995 under President Bill Clinton, and later as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002 under President George W. Bush.
Throughout his lengthy diplomatic career, Rocha also served at the U.S. missions in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Argentina. In more recent years, he has served as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and on the University of Miami's International Advisory Board, the Miami Herald reported.
Authorities alleged that starting in 1981 and continuing to the present, Rocha, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Colombia, secretly helped Cuba gather intelligence against the United States during all of his diplomatic assignments.
The alleged intelligence-gathering continued even after his departure from the State Department when he was serving as an adviser to the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, whose area of responsibility includes Cuba, the DOJ said.
Rocha was arrested and charged after allegedly making incriminating statements to an undercover FBI agent posing as an operative of Cuba's General Directorate of Intelligence. U.S. officials alleged Rocha behaved as a Cuban agent during the meetings, "consistently referring to the United States as 'the enemy,' and using the term 'we' to describe himself and Cuba."
Rocha also praised the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro as "The Comandante," they alleged.
He faces charges including conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the Attorney General and with using a passport obtained by false statement.
Rocha was scheduled to make an initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Miami on Monday.