Ex-Diplomat Confesses to Spying for Cuba, Plans Guilty Plea

A former career U.S. diplomat and ex-ambassador to Bolivia, who confessed to spying for Cuba over decades, intends to plead guilty to his charges, according to court proceedings.

Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, admitted his espionage activities for Cuba during a Thursday hearing and expressed his intention to plead guilty to federal charges. He was indicted last December on accusations of serving as a spy for Cuba’s intelligence agency for an extended period. Rocha indicated his willingness to plead guilty to two counts of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government.

As part of his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss over a dozen additional charges, AP News reported. The maximum sentence for the two counts Rocha faces is five to ten years in prison. Responding to the judge’s inquiry about changing his plea, Rocha affirmed, “I am in agreement.” His decision to amend his plea was recorded on the case docket, and his next court appearance is scheduled for April 12th.

Investigators revealed that Rocha was recruited in 1973 in Chile by Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence. Prosecutors alleged that the intelligence service instructed him to fabricate a cover story to conceal his “double life.” Attorney General Merrick Garland characterized the case as “one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the U.S. government by a foreign agent.” Garland also stated that Rocha sought U.S. government positions that “would provide him with access to non-public information and the ability to affect U.S. foreign policy.”

The nature of the information Rocha may have disclosed to Cuba or how he might have influenced U.S. policy remains undisclosed. Rocha believed that an undercover FBI agent arranging meetings with him represented Cuba’s spy agency and had at least three encounters with the disguised agent. He referred to the U.S. as “the enemy” and praised their espionage efforts as “enormous” and “more than a grand slam,” according to the criminal complaint.

Rocha, originally from Colombia, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1978. He joined the State Department in 1981 and served in various roles in Latin America for over two decades, including as ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002. His responsibilities included oversight of Cuba while serving as the National Security Council’s director for inter-American affairs and as the deputy principal officer of the American embassy in Havana. After leaving the State Department, he advised the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, which encompasses Cuba.

Rocha’s tenure in the U.S. government coincided with that of Ana Montes, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who served 20 years in prison for spying for Cuba before her release in 2023. Montes was recruited by Cuban intelligence in 1984 before joining the Defense Intelligence Agency.

During one meeting with the undercover FBI agent, prosecutors alleged Rocha praised a U.S. government employee who had spied for Cuba, describing her as “betrayed.”