A former US ambassador to Bolivia has been arrested and charged with spying for Cuba over a 40-year span, the US Department of Justice announced on Monday, detailing a shock betrayal by a suspect who called the US “the enemy.”
US Attorney General Merrick Garland laid out the allegations against Victor Manuel Rocha, a onetime member of the White House’s National Security Council now accused of using his positions within the government to support Cuba’s “clandestine intelligence-gathering mission” against the US.
The charges against Rocha, 73, expose “one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent,” Garland said in a statement.
Rocha, a naturalized US citizen originally from Colombia, allegedly began aiding Havana as a covert agent of the Cuban General Directorate of Intelligence (DGI) in 1981, and his espionage activities continued to the present, the statement said.
Garland delivered remarks about the arrest of Rocha on Friday in Miami and elaborated on details learned when Rocha spoke at length with someone he believed to be a Cuban operative, but who was actually an undercover FBI agent.
“As detailed in the complaint, Rocha repeatedly referred to the United States as ‘the enemy’” and spoke of his own “meticulous” efforts to infiltrate Washington’s power center and influence US foreign policy, Garland said.
“He repeatedly bragged about the significance of his efforts, saying that ‘what has been done has strengthened the revolution immensely,’” he said.
Rocha served on the National Security Council from 1994 to 1995 in the administration of Bill Clinton and was the ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002 under Clinton and then-US president George W. Bush. He has also served as adviser to the US military command responsible for Cuba.
During an initial appearance in federal court on Monday in Florida, Rocha broke down into tears and did not enter a plea, the New York Times reported.
The criminal complaint details how, over multiple meetings with the undercover FBI agent beginning in November last year, Rocha “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.”
He admitted to traveling to Havana in 2016 or 2017 to meet with his DGI handlers and asked the undercover agent to send “my warmest regards to the Direccion,” referring to the DGI.
On Friday, in a voluntary interview with US Department of State security agents, Rocha “lied repeatedly” including denying meeting the undercover agent, and was subsequently arrested.
“Those who have the privilege of serving in the government of the United States are given an enormous amount of trust by the public we serve,” Garland said. “To betray that trust by falsely pledging loyalty to the United States while serving a foreign power is a crime that will be met with the full force of the Justice Department.”
The State Department said it was not yet clear how damaging Rocha’s decades of espionage has been, but a spokesman said it is working with the intelligence community “to assess any long-term national security implications for this matter.”
Vaccines that protect against severe illness, death and lingering long COVID-19 symptoms from a SARS-CoV-2 infection were linked to small increases in neurological, blood and heart-related conditions in the largest global vaccine safety study to date. The rare events — identified early in the pandemic — included a higher risk of heart-related inflammation from mRNA shots made by Pfizer Inc, BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc, and an increased risk of a type of blood clot in the brain after immunization with viral-vector vaccines such as the one developed by the University of Oxford and made by AstraZeneca PLC. The viral-vector jabs were
A steam of sweat rose as hundreds of naked men tussled over a bag of wooden talismans, performing a dramatic end to a thousand-year-old ritual in Japan that took place for the last time. Their passionate chants of “jasso, joyasa” (“evil, be gone”) echoed through a ceder forest in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture, where the secluded Kokuseki Temple is ending the popular annual rite. Organizing the event, which draws hundreds of participants and thousands of tourists every year, has become a heavy burden for the aging local faithful, who find it hard to keep up with the rigors of the ritual. The Sominsai festival,
Women on Thursday officially joined a so-called “naked festival” at a shrine in central Japan for the first time in the event’s 1,250-year history, donning purple robes and chanting excitedly as they bore a large bamboo trunk as an offering. Seven groups of women took part in the ritual which is said to drive away evil spirits and where participants pray for happiness. Despite its name, those taking part are not naked. Many women wore “Happi Coats” (robes that reach to the hips) and shorts that are typically worn at Japanese festivals, although men just wore loincloths similar to those worn by
‘PUTIN IS RESPONSIBLE’: Authorities detained more than 100 people in Russia, as mourners remembered the opposition leader outside embassies around the world Floral tributes to Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest foe who died on Friday in a Russian penal colony, were removed overnight by groups of unidentified people while police watched, videos on Russian social media show. More than 100 people were detained in eight cities across Russia after they came to lay flowers in memory of Navalny, said OVD-Info, a group that monitors political repression in Russia. Yesterday, police blocked access to a memorial in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and detained several people there as well as in another Siberian city, Surgut, OVD-Info said. Video footage shared on social media