The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged a former US ambassador to Bolivia for allegedly working with Cuban intelligence services as an undercover agent for several decades.
In court papers unsealed on Monday, the DOJ alleged that Manuel Rocha had taken part in “clandestine activity” with the Cuban government since at least 1981, sharing false information with the US and meeting with Cuban operatives.
The 73-year-old former ambassador worked in the US Foreign Service for 25 years, holding top posts in South American nations such as Bolivia and Argentina.
The case against Rocha “exposes one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent”, Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement explaining the charges.
“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 DOJ has charged Rocha with acting as an illegal agent of a foreign government. US law requires those acting on behalf of foreign governments to register with the DOJ.
The Associated Press news agency reported that Rocha was arrested on Friday as part of a counterintelligence probe by the FBI, the US domestic intelligence agency.
The AP reported that Rocha was charged in a federal court in Miami, Florida, and that he is expected to appear in court on Monday.
The website of the US Department of State says that Rocha was sworn in as ambassador to Bolivia on July 14, 2000.
In 2002 he intervened in Bolivia’s presidential race, warning that the US would cut off aid if Bolivians elected Evo Morales, a left-wing candidate and former coca leaf grower.
Rocha’s speech, interpreted as an effort to shape the outcome of an election in a region where the US has a long history of subterfuge and interference, angered Bolivians and helped propel Morales to victory.
Since retiring from government service, Rocha has started a new career as the president of a Dominican gold mine owned partly by Canada’s Barrick Gold that has been accused of environmental degradation, the AP reported.
The company has also faced allegations that it was complicit in extrajudicial killings in Tanzania.
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