Former U.S. ambassador arrested in Florida

MIAMI — A former American diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia has been arrested in a long-running FBI counterintelligence investigation, accused of secretly serving as an agent of Cuba’s authorities, The Associated Press has realized.

Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested in Miami on Friday on a legal criticism and extra particulars in regards to the case are anticipated to be made public at a court docket look Monday, stated two individuals who spoke to the AP on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t licensed to debate an ongoing federal investigation.

One of the individuals stated the Justice Department case accuses Rocha of working to advertise the Cuban authorities’s pursuits. Federal legislation requires individuals doing the political bidding of a overseas authorities or entity contained in the U.S. to register with the Justice Department, which lately has stepped up its legal enforcement of illicit overseas lobbying.

The Justice Department declined to remark. It was not instantly clear if Rocha had a lawyer and a legislation agency the place he beforehand labored stated it was not representing him. His spouse hung up when contacted by the AP.

Rocha’s 25-year diplomatic profession was spent underneath each Democratic and Republican administrations, a lot of it in Latin America throughout the Cold War, a interval of generally heavy-handed U.S. political and navy insurance policies. His diplomatic postings included a stint on the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba throughout a time when the U.S. lacked full diplomatic relations with Fidel Castro’s communist authorities.

Born in Colombia, Rocha was raised in a working-class dwelling in New York City and went on to acquire a succession of liberal arts levels from Yale, Harvard and Georgetown earlier than becoming a member of the overseas service in 1981.

He was the highest U.S. diplomat in Argentina between 1997 and 2000 as a decade-long foreign money stabilization program backed by Washington was unraveling underneath the burden of giant overseas debt and stagnant development, triggering a political disaster that may see the South American nation cycle by 5 presidents in two weeks.

At his subsequent publish as ambassador to Bolivia, he intervened instantly into the 2002 presidential race, warning weeks forward of the vote that the U.S. would lower off help to the poor South American nation if it had been 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 worked but three years later Bolivians elected Morales anyway and the leftist leader would expel Rocha’s successor as chief of the diplomatic mission for inciting “civil war.”

Rocha additionally served in Italy, Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and labored as a Latin America knowledgeable for the National Security Council.

Rocha’s spouse, Karla Wittkop Rocha, wouldn’t remark when contacted by the AP. “I don’t need to talk to you,” she stated earlier than hanging up.

Following his retirement from the State Department, Rocha started a second profession in enterprise, serving because the president of a gold mine within the Dominican Republic partly owned by Canada’s Barrick Gold.

More just lately, he’s held senior roles at XCoal, a Pennsylvania-based coal exporter; Clover Leaf Capital, an organization fashioned to facilitate mergers within the hashish business; legislation agency Foley & Lardner and Spanish public relations corporations Llorente & Cuenca.

“Our firm remains committed to transparency and will closely monitor the situation, cooperating fully with the authorities if any information becomes available to us,” Dario Alvarez, CEO of Llorente & Cuenca’s U.S. operations, stated in an electronic mail.

XCoal and Clover Leaf Capital didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark. Foley & Lardner stated Rocha left the legislation agency in August.

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