Manuel Rocha
He was arrested in Florida La Razon Bolivia

Former American diplomat Manuel Rocha, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia and as the country's top diplomat to Argentina, was apprehended in Miami on Friday as part of a protracted FBI counterintelligence inquiry, The Associated Press reported on Sunday.

Rocha, 73, stands accused of clandestinely acting as an agent for the government of Cuba, according to what sources familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as the investigation unfolds, told the media outlet.

Details surrounding the arrest are expected to be revealed during a court appearance scheduled for this week, with potential further impacts to U.S.-Cuba relations. The criminal complaint against Rocha reportedly asserts that he covertly worked to advance the interests of the Cuban government. Under federal law, individuals engaged in political activities on behalf of a foreign government within the United States are required to register with the Justice Department. In recent years, the Justice Department has intensified its efforts to criminally prosecute those involved in illicit foreign lobbying.

The availability of legal representation for Rocha remains unclear, and a law firm where he previously worked has disavowed any current association with him. Rocha's wife, contacted by The Associated Press, abruptly hung up without commenting on the situation.

Rocha's diplomatic career spanned 25 years, encompassing service under both Democratic and Republican administrations, predominantly in Latin America during the Cold War era. Born in Colombia and raised in New York City, Rocha obtained liberal arts degrees from Yale, Harvard, and Georgetown before joining the foreign service in 1981.

During his tenure as the top U.S. diplomat in Argentina from 1997 to 2000, Rocha was present as the country underwent political turmoil, triggered by a currency stabilization program backed by Washington that unraveled. Argentina ended up in one of its worst economic crisis and saw the resignation of then-President Fernando De La Rua, who famously left the presidential palace in a helicopter, ushering a historic period of instability that featured five presidents in two weeks.

One salient moment of Rocha's ambassadorship to Bolivia was his direct involvement in the 2002 presidential race, issuing warnings regarding U.S. aid in response to the potential election of Evo Morales.

Evo Morales in Ecuador
Former Bolivian President Evo Morales wikimedia commons

"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. The decision backfired and gave Morales a boost. Even though he didn't end up winning that year, he did so in 2006.

Following retirement from the State Department, Rocha pursued a second career in business, including roles as the president of a gold mine in the Dominican Republic and positions at companies like XCoal, Clover Leaf Capital, law firm Foley & Lardner, and Spanish public relations firms Llorente & Cuenca.

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