On Monday, the Department of Justice announced the arrest of a longtime United States diplomat and national security figure named Victor Manuel Rocha on charges that he has acted for decades “as an agent of a foreign government,” namely Cuba’s. Since 1981, a criminal complaint against Rocha says, he worked for the State Department, National Security Council, and U.S. military—even serving from 1999 until 2002 as the American ambassador to Bolivia—while surreptitiously working to advance the interests of Fidel Castro’s communist Cuban regime.
A separate grand jury indictment filed Tuesday expanded on the accusation, charging Rocha with seeking “sensitive” and “classified” U.S. material so that he could “provide such information to agents or representatives of the Republic of Cuba.”
Neither the complaint nor the indictment against Rocha describes any alleged instances in which Rocha passed on classified information. (A former CIA officer interviewed by NPR said that the investigation into when he may have done so, now that Rocha has been identified as an alleged mole, may take multiple years.) The documents do, however, recount meetings that are said to have taken place in 2022 and 2023 between Rocha and an undercover FBI agent who presented himself as Rocha’s new contact from the Cuban government. (Fidel Castro died in 2016; the country is currently led by Miguel Díaz-Canel.)
In those meetings, by prosecutors’ account, Rocha said a lot of incriminating stuff, including:
• Stating his confidence that “they”—i.e., U.S. authorities—wouldn’t know the meeting was taking place (whoops!) because he’d traveled to it via a circuitous route like he had been “told to do” during his “training.”
• Instructing the undercover agent not to use the words C or H (i.e., Cuba or Havana) in their conversations and to instead use euphemistic terms such as “the island.”
• Attesting that, “for security reasons,” he never wrote Cuba-related information down.
• Stating that “the Dirección,” i.e., the Cuban directorate of intelligence, had asked him to create the appearance of living a “normal life” as part of his “legend.” (He also asked the undercover agent to give the Dirección his “warmest regards” and referred to Castro as “the comandante.”)
• Expressing pride about having “strengthened the Revolution,” work that he described as being of “enormous” importance to Cuba and “a grand slam” for the country’s interests.
• Referring to the United States as “the enemy.” (LOL.)
Your author is not an expert in the field of espionage but suspects that “telling someone you’ve just met, at length, about your work as a double agent” is not a best practice. (It also raises the question of how it took so long for the U.S. counterintelligence apparatus to learn about his alleged behavior.) Rocha, who is 73, appeared at a court hearing on Monday but has not commented on the charges.