A previous diplomat from the United States will admit guilt to accusations of spying on behalf of Cuba for multiple decades.

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A retired American diplomat stated to a judge on Thursday that he intends to confess to accusations of serving as a covert agent for communist Cuba for many years. This came as a surprise and quickly resolved a case that prosecutors deemed to be one of the most audacious betrayals in the history of the United States’ foreign service.

Manuel Rocha’s stunning fall from grace could culminate in a lengthy prison term after the 73-year-old said he would admit to federal counts of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government.

The prosecutor and defense lawyer of Rocha mentioned that the plea bargain includes a specific sentence, but they did not reveal any specifics during the court hearing on Thursday. Rocha is expected to appear in court again on April 12 for his sentencing.

“I concur,” stated Rocha, with his hands and feet bound, in response to a question from US district court judge Beth Bloom about whether he wanted to plead guilty. As part of the agreement, the prosecutors have also agreed to dismiss 13 charges, which include wire fraud and making false statements.

The short hearing did not provide any new information on the unanswered question surrounding Rocha’s arrest in December. This question pertains to what specific actions he took to support Cuba during his two decades of employment at the state department. This span of time encompassed positions such as ambassador to Bolivia, as well as key roles in Argentina, Mexico, the White House, and the US Interests Section in Havana.

After leaving his government position, he went on to become a special advisor to the leader of the US Southern Command. More recently, he has been an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump and held strong views against Cuba. Friends and prosecutors believe that Rocha took on this persona in order to conceal his real loyalties.

According to Peter Lapp, who managed FBI efforts to counter Cuban intelligence from 1998 to 2005, the swift resolution of the case is advantageous for both the elderly Rocha and the government. This outcome allows the government to gain important insights into the extent of Cuba’s infiltration in US foreign policy circles.

Usually, in counterintelligence situations, the accused is indicted with espionage charges. However, in Rocha’s case, he was alleged of committing lesser offenses such as acting as a foreign agent. These offenses have prison sentences of five to 10 years maximum, which allowed for an agreement to be reached between the prosecution and Rocha.

According to Lapp, who oversaw the probe of Ana Montes, the most senior American official ever found guilty of spying for Cuba, “This is mutually beneficial for both parties. He receives a substantial reward and the opportunity to reunite with his loved ones, while the US gains the ability to complete a thorough evaluation of the damage, which would not be possible without his cooperation.”

He stated that there are certain specifics that can only be provided by the accused.

Rocha was taken into custody by the FBI at his residence in Miami for reportedly participating in secretive actions in support of Cuba, starting from the year 1981 when he became a member of the US diplomatic service. These activities allegedly involved meetings with Cuban intelligence agents and deceiving US government officials through fabricated information about his interactions.

According to court documents, Rocha confessed to an FBI agent who was disguised as a Cuban spy, where he referred to Fidel Castro as “comandante” and referred to the US as an “enemy”. He also boasted about his 40 years of service as a Cuban mole within prominent US foreign policy circles.

According to one of several covertly recorded conversations, he stated, “Our achievements are beyond measure and are comparable to a grand slam.”

The actions of Rocha to assist Cuba have not been publicly disclosed by federal authorities. A confidential evaluation is being conducted by the FBI and State Department investigators to determine the extent of the damage, which may take several years.

However, a recent investigation by the Associated Press revealed that there were numerous instances where warning signs were overlooked in the past.

In 2006, a long-standing CIA member received a warning about Rocha’s potential double agency, but no further action was taken. Additionally, intelligence indicated that the CIA had prior knowledge dating back to 1987 of a “super mole” within the US government, with suspicions that it may have been Rocha.

Rocha’s decision to plead guilty on Thursday came just hours after the widow of a prominent Cuban dissident killed in a mysterious car crash filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the former diplomat. The lawsuit accuses Rocha of sharing intelligence that emboldened Cuba’s communist leaders to assassinate a chief opponent.

Source: theguardian.com

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