A United States diplomat who served in various roles in several presidential administrations was arrested in Miami, Florida, on Friday on suspicion of acting as a secret agent for Cuba’s government.
Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested in Miami on Friday on a criminal complaint and more details about the case are expected to be made public at a court appearance Monday, said two people who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss an ongoing federal investigation.
One of the people said the Justice Department case accuses Rocha of working to promote the Cuban government’s interests. Federal law requires people doing the political bidding of a foreign government or entity inside the U.S. to register with the Justice Department, which in recent years has stepped up its criminal enforcement of illicit foreign lobbying.
(Hunter Biden was unavailable for comment.)
Rocha, who was born in Colombia, grew up in New York and attended Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown universities, where he obtained degrees in public administration and international relations. He joined the State Department in 1981 and held several different posts before being appointed ambassador to Bolivia by President Bill Clinton in 2000. Rocha continued in that role under President George W. Bush before leaving the post in August 2002.
His time as ambassador was somewhat controversial.
At his next post as ambassador to Bolivia, he intervened directly into the 2002 presidential race, warning weeks ahead of the vote that the U.S. would cut off assistance to the poor South American country if it were to elect former coca grower Evo Morales.
“I want to remind the Bolivian electorate that if they vote for those who want Bolivia to return to exporting cocaine, that will seriously jeopardize any future aid to Bolivia from the United States,″ Rocha said in a speech that was widely interpreted as a an attempt to sustain U.S. dominance in the region.
The gambit angered Bolivians and gave Morales a last-minute boost. When he was finally elected three years later, the leftist leader expelled Rocha’s successor as chief of the diplomatic mission for inciting “civil war.”
After his diplomatic career, Rocha moved into the business world.
Following his retirement from the State Department, Rocha began a second career in business, serving as the president of a gold mine in the Dominican Republic partly owned by Canada’s Barrick Gold.
More recently, he’s held senior roles at XCoal, a Pennsylvania-based coal exporter; Clover Leaf Capital, a company formed to facilitate mergers in the cannabis industry; law firm Foley & Lardner and Spanish public relations firms Llorente & Cuenca.
So far, the Department of Justice has declined to comment on Rocha’s arrest. Rocha is due in court on Monday, and more details may be available following that appearance.