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Former career US diplomat charged with secretly spying for Cuban intelligence for decades

Former diplomat a spy?

A former American diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia has been charged with serving as a mole for Cuba's intelligence services dating back decades, the Justice Department said Monday.

Newly unsealed court papers allege that Manuel Rocha engaged in “clandestine activity” on Cuba's behalf since at least 1981, including by meeting with Cuban intelligence operatives and providing false information to U.S. government officials about his travels and contacts.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Miami, charges Rocha with crimes including acting as an illegal agent of a foreign government and comes amid stepped up Justice Department criminal enforcement of illicit foreign lobbying on U.S. soil. The 73-year-old had a two-decade career as a U.S. diplomat, including top posts in Bolivia, Argentina and the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

The charging document traces Rocha's illegal ties with Cuba's notoriously sophisticated intelligence services to 1981, when he first joined the State Department, to well after his departure from the federal government more than two decades later.

The FBI learned about the relationship last year and arranged a series of undercover encounters with someone purporting to be a Cuban intelligence operative, including one meeting in Miami last year in which Rocha said that he had been directed by the government's intelligence services to “lead a normal life” and had created the “legend,” or artificial persona, “of a right-wing person.”

“I always told myself, ‘The only thing that can put everything we have done in danger is — is ... someone’s betrayal, someone who may have met me, someone who may have known something at some point,'” Rocha said, according to the charging document.

He is due in court later Monday. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.



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