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Published on April 13, 2024
Ex-U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia Copped with 15-Year Sentence for Spying for CubaSource: Wikipedia/US Department of State, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Victor Manuel Rocha, a former US ambassador and National Security Council official, has been slapped with a 15-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to operating covertly as an agent for Cuba, betraying an oath he had sworn to uphold. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida, Rocha's betrayal spanned over four decades, during which he climbed the ranks of the U.S. government all while funneling secrets to the Cuban government.

“Victor Manuel Rocha secretly acted for decades as an agent of a hostile foreign power. He thought the story of his covert mission for Cuba would never be told because he had the intelligence, knowledge, and discipline to never to be detected. Rocha underestimated those same skills in the prosecutors and law enforcement agents who worked tirelessly to bring him to justice for betraying his oath to this country,”  stated U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe, Rocha’s cooperation with U.S. authorities fails to mitigate the gravity of his actions or the clandestine breach of trust for which Judge Beth Bloom of the U.S. District Court exacted the statutory maximum punishment: 15 years in prison, $500,000 in fines, and three years of supervised release along with significant restrictions post-conviction.

The scope of Rocha's subterfuge led to high-level access to sensitive information, including stints at the U.S. State Department, service on the White House National Security Council, and a term as the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia, as per official reports. Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen stated, “Rocha admitted to acting as an agent of the Cuban government at the same time he held numerous positions of trust in the U.S. government, a staggering betrayal of the American people and an acknowledgement that every oath he took to the United States was a lie.” thereby implying every oath Rocha took was an elaborate construct to shield his true allegiance.

Rocha willingly relinquished all future retirement benefits and any profits from publications related to his criminal conduct or government service – a compulsory surrender woven into the plea agreement with the federal government. “He blatantly violated the oath of office he willingly took as an employee of the State Department and disregarded the loyalty to the United States that is inherent with that oath. As this case demonstrates, the counterintelligence threat facing our nation is real, pervasive, and has the potential to cause great harm to our national security. I want to commend the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida for their close partnership on this highly sensitive matter. I also want to thank our Washington Field Office and our Counterintelligence Division, as well as the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, and the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service for their valuable contributions to this case.” Jeffrey B. Veltri, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Miami Field Office, underscored the dire implications of such betrayals. 

Those with knowledge of similar espionage are encouraged to contact the authorities, details of which can be found on the Southern District of Florida's court website and through the FBI's tip line.