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Rep. María Elvira Salazar to return campaign cash from suspected Cuba spy

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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AP
U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, a Republican from Miami, received two donations totaling $750 last year 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. She's returning the money. (ABOVE) Salazar speaks 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

U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar, R-Miami, told POLITICO and The Washington Post that 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.

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.

"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 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.

READ MORE: Why did Rocha allegedly betray the U.S. to Cuba — and how much damage was done?

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.

Sergio Bustos is WLRN's Vice President for News. He's been an editor at the Miami Herald and POLITICO Florida. Most recently, Bustos was Enterprise/Politics Editor for the USA Today Network-Florida’s 18 newsrooms. Reach him at sbustos@wlrnnews.org
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