ColombiaOne.comPoliticsFormer US Ambassador to Argentina and Bolivia Arrested

Former US Ambassador to Argentina and Bolivia Arrested


North American ambassador Argentina Bolivia arrested
Former US ambassador to Argentina and Bolivia arrested in Miami for spying for Cuba. Photo: US Department of State

The FBI has arrested the former U.S. ambassador to Argentina and Bolivia, Manuel Rocha, in Miami. He has been accused of spying for Cuba. Rocha, who held the top diplomatic post in Argentina between 1997 and 2000, also served as the chargé d’affaires in Buenos Aires before becoming the ambassador to Bolivia in 2002.

The arrest occurred last Friday, on December 1, but was made public yesterday, on Sunday. It followed a lengthy FBI counterintelligence investigation in which Rocha is accused of secretly serving as an agent for the Cuban government, according to information obtained by the Associated Press (AP).

Born in Colombia, Manuel Rocha was raised in a working-class home in New York and obtained several humanities degrees from Yale, Harvard, and Georgetown before joining the foreign service in 1981. He is now 73 years old, and he is remembered for his attempts, from the U.S. embassy, to destabilize Evo Morales’ electoral options in the Bolivian presidential elections of 2002, ultimately won by the conservative Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada.

Diplomat in the Cold War Era

Rocha’s 25-year diplomatic career unfolded under both Democratic and Republican administrations, much of it in Latin America during the Cold War, a period of sometimes tough U.S. policies and military interventions. His diplomatic roles included a stint at the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, at a time when the United States lacked full diplomatic relations with Fidel Castro’s communist government.

Rocha also served in Italy, Honduras, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, and worked as a Latin America expert for the National Security Council. Between 1994 and 1995, he was the Director for Inter-American Affairs at the White House for the National Security Council. He was also a member of the International Council on Terrorism chaired by Henry Kissinger. After retiring from the State Department, Rocha embarked on a second career in the business world as the president of a gold mine in the Dominican Republic, which was partially owned by the Canadian company Barrick Gold.

Two sources who spoke with AP on the condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to discuss an ongoing federal investigation, said that Rocha faces a criminal complaint, and that more details are expected to come out at his court appearance on Monday. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.

His Role in Bolivia

Manuel Rocha’s television appearance during Bolivia’s 2002 political campaign urging Bolivians “don’t vote for Morales” is still remembered in the country. Evo Morales did not win those elections, but the diplomat’s words helped give prominence to the until-then relatively unknown coca leader and his Movement for Socialism (MAS) party. Morales would become president three years later.

The political leader himself acknowledged that Rocha was ‘the best national campaign manager for MAS.’ “Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, you were the best campaign manager I have had so far in my political career. Don’t worry, upon reaching the government, I will seek your advice on how to remove the DEA from the country,” the Bolivian president stated at that time. He was later ousted following a coup in November 2019.

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