Former U.S. Diplomat Arrested in Florida, Accused of Cuban Espionage

( – A former American diplomat has been arrested on suspicion of secretly serving the Cuban government as part of a long-running FBI counterintelligence investigation. Former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested on Friday, December 1st in Miami, Florida.

According to two people with insider knowledge of the case, Rocha has been accused of working to promote the interests of Cuba’s government. Under federal law, those who are conducting the political bidding of a foreign government or entity must register with the Department of Justice if they are doing so in the United States – enforcement of which has been ramped up in recent years.

Little else is known about the case. Both the Department of Justice and his wife have declined to comment, and it’s not known whether he is being represented by a lawyer. A law firm where he was previously employed has said it is not representing Rocha.

Rocha, who served in diplomacy for a quarter of a century, spent much of his career in Latin America during the Cold War, where tensions between the U.S. and foreign enemies prolonged for much of the latter half of the 20th century. Rocha spent time in Fidel Castro’s Cuba during a period when the U.S. did not hold full diplomatic relations with the communist government.

After a post in Argentina, Rocha served as the nation’s ambassador to Bolivia, where he publicly intervened in the country’s 2002 presidential election by warning voters against electing former coca grower Evo Morales or risk losing aid from the U.S. Three years later, Morales was elected, and Rocha’s successor was expelled for inciting “civil war”.

Since leaving public service, Rocha has worked as the president of a gold mine in the Dominican Republic. He has also held prominent roles at Pennsylvania-based coal exporter XCoal, law firm Foley & Lardner, and Llorente & Cuenca, a Spanish public relations firm. CEO of Llorente & Cuenca’s U.S. operations said the company would be “cooperating fully” with authorities.

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