Former US Ambassador Arrested as Secret Agent

Ex-diplomat to Bolivia Manuel Rocha, 73, accused of secretly working to promote Cuba's interests
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2023 7:30 AM CST

A former US diplomat has been arrested in Florida, accused of secretly serving as an agent for Cuba. WTSP identifies him as 73-year-old Manuel Rocha, who served as the ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002. A source tells the AP, which first reported on Rocha's arrest Friday in Miami, that Rocha allegedly worked to promote the Cuban government's interests. The news agency notes that those who choose to do the "political bidding" of foreign governments or entities are required to register with the Justice Department, and that Rocha's arrest comes after a lengthy FBI counterintelligence probe.

The Colombia native grew up in New York City and received degrees from Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown before going on to spend a quarter century serving as a diplomat, under both Democratic and Republican administrations. NDTV notes Rocha "stirred a major controversy" during his ambassadorship to Bolivia, as that country's 2002 elections took place, by signaling that the US would cut off aid to the South American nation if Evo Morales were to be elected. Morales didn't win that year, but he did three years later, at which point he promptly booted Rocha's successor as chief of the diplomatic mission for inciting "civil war."

Rocha also served in Argentina, Mexico, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Italy. After he retired from his diplomatic career, Rocha went on to head a gold mine in the Dominican Republic, followed by a stint of senior positions at coal exporter Xcoal, Spanish PR company Llorente & Cuenca, and law firm Foley & Lardner, which Rocha left in August, according to the company. A call to Rocha's home from the AP didn't yield many more details. "I don't need to talk to you," wife Karla Wittkop Rocha said before hanging up. (More ambassador stories.)

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