Former US ambassador arrested in Florida, accused of working as Cuban agent, AP source says


MIAMI (AP) — A former U.S. diplomat who served as the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia has been arrested in a long-running FBI counterintelligence investigation accused of secretly working as an agent of the Cuban government. Is alleged, 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 become public when he appears in court on Monday, two of the people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. Because they were not authorized. To discuss the ongoing federal investigation.

The Justice Department case accuses Rocha of working to promote the interests of the Cuban government, one of the people said. Federal law requires people doing political bidding for a foreign government or entity inside the United States to register with the Justice Department, which has stepped up criminal enforcement of illegal foreign lobbying in recent years.

The Justice Department declined to comment. It was not immediately clear whether Rocha had a lawyer and a law firm where he previously worked said it was not representing him. When contacted by the AP, his wife hung up the phone.

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

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Born in Colombia, Rocha was raised in a working-class home in New York City and received liberal arts degrees from Yale, Harvard, and Georgetown before joining the Foreign Service in 1981.

He was the top US diplomat to Argentina between 1997 and 2000, as a decade-long currency stabilization program supported by Washington was weakening under the burden of heavy foreign debt and stagnant growth, leading to a political crisis that left the South American Five cycles will run in the country. President in two weeks.

In his next post as ambassador to Bolivia, he intervened directly in the 2002 presidential race, warning just weeks before the vote that the US would cut off aid to the impoverished South American country if it elected former coca grower Evo Morales. will do it.

Rocha said in a speech, "I want to remind Bolivian voters that if they vote for those who want Bolivia to resume cocaine exports, it will cut off Bolivia's exports to the United States. Any future aid would be seriously jeopardized." Effort to maintain American dominance in the region.

The ploy worked but three years later Bolivians still elected Morales and the leftist leader expelled Rocha's successor as head of the diplomatic mission for instigating a "civil war".

Rocha also worked in Italy, Honduras, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, and served as a Latin America specialist for the National Security Council.

Rocha's wife, Carla Witkop Rocha, had no comment when contacted by the AP. “I don't need to talk to you,” she said before hanging up the phone.

After his retirement from the State Department, Rocha began a second career in business, serving as president of a gold mine in the Dominican Republic, partly owned by Canada's Barrick Gold.

Most recently, he has held senior roles at XCoal pennsylvaniabased coal exporter; Clover Leaf Capital, a company formed to facilitate mergers in the cannabis industry; law firm Foley & Lardner and Spanish public relations firm Llorente & Cuenca.

"Our company is committed to transparency and will monitor the situation closely; we will cooperate fully with authorities if any information becomes available to us," Dario Alvarez, CEO of Llorente and Cuenca's U.S. operations, said in an email.

Foley & Lardner said Rocha left the law firm in August.

Tucker reported from Washington.

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