Absolute Silence in Cuba on the Manuel Rocha Spy Case

Former US Ambassador Manuel Rocha is seen in a meeting with an undercover FBI agent that is being secretly filmed while he was under investigation for illegally lobbying for Cuba for decades. Rocha was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Friday. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Justice

HAVANA TIMES – The 15-year prison sentence for charges related to spying for Cuba over 40 years by former US diplomat Victor Manuel Rocha made headlines around the world in recent days, but on this island, it seems like nobody has heard about it.

Neither the ineffable Con Filo program, nor the National Television News, nor the Granma newspaper, nor Humberto in his abominable Hagamos Cuba, nobody seems to know about the news, so let’s remind them.

A federal court in Miami sentenced Rocha after the 73-year-old former ambassador pleaded guilty during a hearing held by Judge Beth Bloom.

According to the summary, he was accused of “acting as an illegal agent of a foreign government (Cuba)” and also of “conspiracy” in the same crime and “defrauding the United States.”

Of Colombian origin, Rocha was arrested in Miami last December on minor charges, but what followed was a real bomb when everything started rolling downhill like a snowball that kept getting bigger. In fact, in February, he agreed to change his plea to guilty in exchange for prosecutors dropping 13 charges against him, including electronic fraud and making false statements.

Before the court, the former official acknowledged betraying his oath of allegiance to the United States and apologized for the pain caused to his family, colleagues, and close friends.

During his 25 years in the diplomatic service, he served in Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Bolivia, Cuba, Argentina, and Mexico, and after retiring from the State Department, he continued in private business.

According to US Attorney General Merrick Garland, this case exposed one of the most extensive and longstanding infiltrations into the United States government by a foreign agent.

In his own words, he collaborated with the Havana regime as an undercover agent of the Cuban Directorate of Intelligence (DGI) since 1981 on Honduran soil, and his espionage activities continued to the present day.

As part of his work, from 1994 to 1995, he was part of the National Security Council during the administration of Bill Clinton, and both at that time and whenever he assumed a new responsibility, he signed confidentiality agreements and ensured compliance with US law within the framework of his duties.

It was not until November 2022 that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) received information that Rocha was an undercover agent of the DGI, the most important branch of Cuban State Security.

Last November, he was approached by an undercover FBI agent, who posed as an undercover representative of the DGI, and he was summoned to a meeting at a church in Miami.

During the meeting in question, and unaware that he was actually speaking with the FBI, Rocha admitted that he had been spying for the Cuban government for 40 years.

“For me, what has been done has strengthened the Revolution. It has immensely strengthened it. We cannot jeopardize that. I am very jealous of what we have done and what I have to protect, and what we have done,” he told the agent at their second meeting in February 2023.

A third meeting took place in June, and there the former diplomat reiterated that he had never stopped collaborating and was willing to continue doing so. They agreed on another meeting in December, but he was arrested before then, and during the interrogation, he first denied knowing his interlocutor despite being shown photos, and in the face of evidence, he chose to remain silent.

So far, this is how he was detected, but his guilty plea is no less important because it could set a dangerous precedent in cases of this magnitude by resulting in some impunity because the full extent of the damage caused by the accused is not punished.

The age of the defendant may have influenced him to receive only 15 years in prison (he would be nearly 90 years old upon release) and a $500,000 fine, although a provision was included whereby he might possibly pay damages in the future to others affected by his actions.

“Today, I no longer see the world through the radical eyes of my youth,” he declared from the stand, but strangely he called the representatives of the dictatorship “comrades” and pledged allegiance only months before, not in his teenage years precisely.

Among those dissatisfied with his sentence is Cuban dissident Rosa María Payá, the same one we mentioned recently for her intervention before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

The founder of the dissident platform Cuba Decide and daughter of the late opposition leader Oswaldo Paya considered that activities like those carried out by Rocha for decades are what sustain the Cuban regime and allow for murders like that of her father and the silencing of other opponents.

In this case, there are also suspicions about his link to the downing of two planes in 1994 when he worked at the Washington Interests Section in Havana, and about his influence in the subsequent election of Evo Morales as president of Bolivia, after some inflammatory statements of his that boosted the popularity of the coca leader.

These are just two examples, and the silence of all the propaganda machinery of our beloved Miguel Diaz-Canel really does not help, because when on this side attempts are made to bury an issue, it is because it really stinks.

Similarly, the variety of countries where Rocha was and for four decades makes one think that we are only scratching the surface, and we may be amazed by a few more things, if this is possible in the Cuban context.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

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