Former U.S. Ambassador Sentenced for Conspiring Against His Country

Former U.S. Ambassador Sentenced for Conspiring Against His Country

He secretly spied for Cuba for decades while serving as a U.S. ambassador and working for the State Department for two decades with high-level security clearances.

On Friday in Miami, he was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for his crime of espionage in what has been described as one of the longest-running betrayals of our country.

Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, a former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to defraud the United States as a foreign agent and failing to register as a foreign agent, according to The New York Times, which reported the plea was part of an agreement with the federal government.

Rocha — who was born in Colombia and moved to Harlem, New York, when he was 10, following his father’s death — also faces three years of supervised release and a $500,000 fine, the Times reported.

Before he was sentenced, Rocha conceded to the “betrayal of my oath of loyalty to the United States during my two decades in the State Department,” according to the Times.

“During my formative years in college, I was heavily influenced by the radical politics of the day,” said Rocha, who prosecutors said was recruited by Cuban intelligence agents in 1973. “Today, I no longer see the world through the radical eyes of my youth.”

Rocha was indicted in December on charges that he spied for The General Directorate of Intelligence (Direccion General de Inteligencia), Cuba’s intelligence agency, for decades.

CBS News reported that Rocha, who lives in Miami, originally pleaded not guilty in mid-February, then changed course later in the month.

On Friday, it was questioned whether a 15-year sentence was long enough for Rocha before it was decided that at his age, he likely would die in prison.

Also questioned was the fact that his plea deal did not include revocation of his U.S. citizenship. However, CBS noted that denaturalization is possible as a civil action in the future.

In addition, the plea deal reportedly was amended to include restitution for potential victims and the promise of Rocha’s cooperation with the government to provide details about his deception with the communist nation that has long been hostile toward the United States.

“You turned your back on this country over and over again,” Judge Beth Bloom told Rocha on Friday, according to the Daily Mail.

The hearing took about 3 1/2 hours.

Rocha worked in the State Department under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush on Latin American matters. He also was the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002 and served from 2006 to 2012 as an adviser to the U.S. military command that includes Cuba, according to The New York Times.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Rocha’s case was “one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the U.S. government by a foreign agent,” per CBS News.

David Newman, a top national security official at the Justice Department, said Rocha’s behavior “is a staggering betrayal of the American people.” Newman made the comment at a news conference following the sentencing.

Friday’s hearing did not shed much light on Rocha’s interactions with the Cuban government or if he shared secrets during his  diplomatic career, according to the Times.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters that the State Department and the intelligence community are assessing the possible damage to national security and added that it would be a “lengthy process,” the extent of which might never fully be known, CBS reported.

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This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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