Executive Branch Foreign Relations & International Law Intelligence

Justice Department Accuses Former U.S. Ambassador of Being a Cuban Spy

Caleb Benjamin
Monday, December 4, 2023, 1:53 PM

Victor Manuel Rocha is indicted with charges of having acted as an agent of the government of Cuba for over four decades.

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On Dec. 1, federal prosecutors charged Victor Manuel Rocha with committing multiple crimes related to his alleged actions as a spy for the Republic of Cuba. Rocha served in the U.S. State Department from 1981 to 2002, including prominent posts as U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002 and as Director of Inter-American Affairs on the U.S. National Security Council—a position responsible for Cuba—from 1994 to 1995. He also served as an advisor to the Commander of U.S. Southern Command from around 2006 to around 2012. 

According to the criminal complaint, Rocha met with an undercover FBI agent posing as a covert Cuban General Directorate of Intelligence representative several times during 2022 and 2023. Rocha admitted to the agent that he had worked for Cuban intelligence for over 40 years and celebrated his actions, describing them as “more than a grand slam.” Rocha told the agent that he was able to work as a high-ranking official of the U.S. government on Cuba’s behalf by going “little by little.” “It was a very meticulous process…very disciplined… I knew exactly how to do it,” he said, according to the indictment. 

Prosecutors charged Rocha in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida with violations of 18 U.S.C § 951 (acting as an agent of a foreign government), § 371 (conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, specifically 18 U.S.C § 951), and § 1542 (use of a United States passport secured by false statement). 

In one of the meetings with the FBI agent, Rocha allegedly said, “I always told myself, ‘The only thing that can put everything we have done in danger is… someone's betrayal, someone who may have met me, someone who may have known something at some point.”

You can read the criminal complaint here or below:

Caleb Benjamin was Lawfare's fall 2023 editorial intern. He holds a B.A. with high honors in government from Dartmouth College.

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