After a U.S. Ambassador’s arrest for spying for Cuba, U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar told Joe Biden’s administration to “wake up.” But it turns out Salazar may also have been fooled by Manuel Rocha about his true political agenda.
Salazar, a Coral Gables Republican, accepted $750 in campaign donations from Rocha, a former Ambassador to Bolivia, as she ran for re-election in 2022. That makes her the only candidate for Congress in the country to accept a political contribution from the Miami businessman.
POLITICO reports it informed Salazar’s campaign of the political contributions. Officials said they will return the money and that Salazar had no personal relationship to Rocha. “The Congresswoman believes that Rocha should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and has completely betrayed the Miami exile community and United States of America,” a campaign statement reads.
Rocha was arrested in Miami on Friday. While a federal indictment issued Tuesday remains restricted from public view, a criminal complaint published by federal alleged that Rocha conspired to defraud the U.S. as an agent of Cuba and illegally obtained a passport based on false statements.
The arrest prompted an immediate response by Salazar. The Congresswoman for years criticized President Biden for not addressing Cuba aggressively enough, alleging it has made diplomatic concessions to a communist regime she believes is still controlled by former military minister Raúl Castro.
“A U.S. diplomat was reportedly arrested in Miami as an alleged spy for the Castro regime,” Salazar posted on X. “Havana doesn’t sleep in its effort to infiltrate our country and cause harm. The regime continues to be a danger to our national security. Biden administration, wake up!”
Of course, it was the Biden administration who arrested Rocha, after he allegedly deceived U.S. diplomats for years.
“We allege that for over 40 years, Victor Manuel Rocha served as an agent of the Cuban government and sought out and obtained positions within the United States government that would provide him with access to non-public information and the ability to affect U.S. foreign policy,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland when the Justice Department announced charges.
“Those who have the privilege of serving in the government of the United States are given an enormous amount of trust by the public we serve. To betray that trust by falsely pledging loyalty to the United States while serving a foreign power is a crime that will be met with the full force of the Justice Department.”
Rocha, a native of Colombia, worked for the State Department from 1981 to 2001, a period spanning from former President Ronald Reagan’s administration to the early part of former President George W. Bush’s first term.
The Justice Department alleges that Rocha used his access to influence foreign policy for Cuba. He also enjoyed access to classified information over that time span, and Justice officials believe after he left the State Department, he worked with Cuban intelligence.
Later, Rocha again worked for the federal government as Commander of U.S. Southern Command, with an area of responsibility that included Cuba, from 2006 to 2012. That spans the latter years of the Bush administration and the first term of former President Barack Obama.
Justice officials allege in documents that Rocha kept a relationship to Cuba secret the entire time he worked for the federal government.
During his time at State, Rocha worked in a number of diplomatic capacities, including at U.S. embassies in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Bolivia. His last role was as the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia.
Undercover agents say they contacted Rocha claiming to be working on behalf of Cuba, and Rocha behaved as a Cuban agent in conversations. That included referring to the U.S. as “the enemy” and praising late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro as the “Comandante,” while calling Cuban intelligence officials comrades.