Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar speaks, as Sen. Rick Scott, left, and RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel look on, during a Get Out the Vote event for Florida Republicans in the 2022 U.S. midterm elections, hosted by the Republican National Committee at the RNC Hispanic Community Center in Doral, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
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U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar, whose district includes Key Biscayne , says she’s returning two donations her congressional campaign received from Manuel Rocha, the former U.S. ambassador in Latin America from Miami charged this week for being a covert agent for Cuba for decades.

Rocha, 73, was arrested at his home in Miami last week on a criminal complaint and has deep Key Biscayne ties. He owned a condominum at Commodore Club West that was sold in 2015 Miami-Dade records show.

Salazar, a vocal critic of President Joe Biden’s policies toward the communist island government, had gotten two donations totaling $750 last year from Rocha. Both media outlets, citing FEC records, reported that Salazar, appeared to be the only lawmaker to receive campaign contributions from the suspected spy.

When news broke last Sunday that Rocha had been arrested in Miami, Salazar slammed the Biden administration.

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“A U.S. diplomat was reportedly arrested in Miami as an alleged spy for the Castro regime,” Salazar posted on X, formerly Twitter. “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!”

When later asked directly about Rocha’s contribution, a Salazar campaign official told told POLITICO and The Washington Post that the Miami congresswoman had no personal relationship with Rocha and that she was going to return the donations.

“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,” the spokesperson told POLITICO in a statement.

In a criminal complaint, as well as a formal indictment issued Tuesday, the Justice Department accused Rocha, a retired 73-year-old U.S. diplomat, of spying for communist Cuba for at least two decades, starting in the early 1980s, and conspiring to “provide [classified U.S.] information” to the regime in Havana.

According to court documents, Rocha, a former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia, told an undercover FBI agent last year that he used to “hit grand slams” sharing sensitive U.S. information with the Cuban regime’s intelligence service, the Dirección General de Inteligencia, or DGI.

Rocha also expressed admiration for late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. After his State Department career, he worked as a special adviser to the commander of U.S. Southern Command in Miami.

When later asked directly about Rocha’s contribution, a Salazar campaign official told the two national media outlets that the Miami congresswoman had no personal relationship with Rocha and that she was going to return the donations.

“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,” the spokesperson told POLITICO in a statement.

In a criminal complaint, as well as a formal indictment issued Tuesday, the Justice Department accused Rocha, a retired 73-year-old U.S. diplomat, of spying for communist Cuba for at least two decades, starting in the early 1980s, and conspiring to “provide [classified U.S.] information” to the regime in Havana.

According to court documents, Rocha, a former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia, told an undercover FBI agent last year that he used to “hit grand slams” sharing sensitive U.S. information with the Cuban regime’s intelligence service, the Dirección General de Inteligencia, or DGI.

Rocha also expressed admiration for late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. After his State Department career, he worked as a special adviser to the commander of U.S. Southern Command in Miami.

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Sergio R. Bustos

Sergio Bustos is WLRN's Vice President for News.  His work appears under a partnership between WLRN and the Key Biscayne Independent.

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Sergio Bustos is WLRN's Vice President for News.  His work appears under a partnership between WLRN and the Key Biscayne Independent.