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A former American ambassador

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The American embassy in La Havana, Cuba (Archive photo)

Agence France-Presse

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A former American ambassador was indicted in Miami for having spied for “more than 40 years” on the United States for the benefit of Cuba, Washington's historic enemy, the US Department of Justice announced on Monday.

Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested last Friday, accused of being a mole for the communist government in Havana while was climbing the ranks of American diplomacy, having access to confidential documents and holding influence over American foreign policy.

This is one of the longest and highest-level infiltrations of a foreign agent into the American state.

A quote from Merrick Garland, Attorney General of the United States

For more than 40 years, Mr. Rocha worked as an undercover agent for the Cuban state, before an FBI investigation brought him down, Garland told reporters.

A court document made public Monday does not mention any financial remuneration he received or examples of information he transmitted to Cuba.

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The former diplomat broke down in tears Monday during a first appearance hearing in a Miami federal court, according to the New York Times. He did not say whether he planned to plead guilty or not guilty, according to the American daily.

Victor Manuel Rocha held very high positions within American diplomacy: before ending his career at the State Department as ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002, he was notably a member of the National Security Council, the organ of the White House, from 1994 to 1995, during the presidency of Bill Clinton.

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Victor Manuel Rocha (right) shakes hands with Bolivian President Hugo Banzer (left) in August 2000.

He also served in numerous American embassies in Latin America, including that of Havana, according to a court document.

Born in Colombia and a naturalized American, Mr. Rocha began working for the main intelligence agency of Cuba's communist government as early as 1981, according to the investigation.

Even after leaving the State Department in 2002, after thirty years of service, he continued his espionage work for Cuba, from ;after the US Department of Justice.

Mr. Rocha was notably an advisor to the US Southern Command, the body which coordinates the American armed forces in Latin America, including Cuba.

He was confused by a member of the American federal police (FBI) who posed, in 2022 and 2023, as an agent of the Cuban intelligence services, according to a court document.

Mr. Rocha went, carefully avoiding being followed, to a meeting with this fake Cuban agent, who hid a microphone and camera to record him.

He spoke of his comrades in Cuba, asked the fake liaison to send warm greetings to the intelligence leadership in Havana, and spoke of the great sacrifice that ;had been for him his life as a secret agent.

What he did for almost 40 years for the communist government in Havana is enormous, more than a grand slam, he congratulated himself during a second meeting in Miami with the same agent.

He always referred to the United States as "the enemy" and used the word "we" to describe Cuba and himself.

A quote from the US Department of Justice in a court document

Questioned Friday by the security service of the American diplomacy, before his arrest, he lied repeatedly and denied having met the FBI agent undercover, the court document further notes.

The State Department will study with intelligence agencies the long-term national security implications of this affair, its spokesperson Matthew Miller said Monday.

Numerous espionage cases have marred relations between the two countries, enemies since the communist revolution in Cuba in 1959, in the midst of the Cold War.

In 2001, Ana Montes, a military intelligence analyst, was arrested for espionage, admitting to having collected intelligence for nearly a decade for Cuba . And in 2010, American diplomat Kendall Myers was sentenced to life in prison, convicted of having spied for 30 years for Havana.

The CIA, for its part, made numerous attempts to assassinate Cuban leaders after the failed landing at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

Cuba has been under a US embargo since 1962 and remains on its list of countries supporting terrorism.

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