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Obama nominates the first ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

The White House Tuesday nominated Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who has been the
chief of the U.S. Embassy in Havana since it reopened in July 2015, as
the “first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years.”

“Jeff’s leadership has been vital throughout the normalization of
relations between the United States and Cuba, and the appointment of an
ambassador is a common sense step forward toward a more normal and
productive relationship between our two countries,” said President
Barack Obama. “There is no public servant better suited to improve our
ability to engage the Cuban people and advance U.S. interests in Cuba
than Jeff.”

The United States and Cuba began the process of normalizing relations on
Dec. 17, 2014 and the two countries reopened respective embassies on
July 20, 2015. Before that, relations between the two countries had been
handled by lower level Interests Sections.

Within two months of reopening its embassy, Cuba nominated José Ramón
Cabañas, who had served as chief of its Interests Section in Washington
since 2012, as its new ambassador to the United States. But the United
States delayed for 14 months in nominating its ambassador to Cuba.

DeLaurentis, a veteran diplomat and officially charge d’affaires, has
been serving as the chief of the U.S. Embassy in Havana since its
reopening and had been at the helm of the former Interests Section in
Havana since August 2014. He had served in Havana twice previously.

Prior to his Havana posting, DeLaurentis served for three years as the
alternate representative for special political affairs at the U.S.
Mission to the United Nations and was deputy assistant secretary of
state for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. He began his State
Department career in 1991.

DeLaurentis is a graduate of the Georgetown of Foreign
Service and Columbia University Graduate School of International Public
Affairs.

Even though DeLaurentis has been a highly respected chief of mission,
his confirmation in the waning months of the Obama administration could
face an uphill battle in the Senate.

Obama said that “having an ambassador will make it easier to advocate
for our interests, and will deepen our understanding even when we know
that we will continue to have differences with the Cuban government.”
Not having an ambassador, he said, “We only hurt ourselves.”

Minnesota Republican Rep. Tom Emmer said confirming DeLaurentis would
further efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. “The move will advance
the United States’ goal of protecting our economic and national security
interests, as well as empower an advocate who fully embodies our
nation’s strong support for improved in Cuba,” he said.

But Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said a U.S. ambassador in Cuba
won’t have any influence on the “dictatorial” Cuban government. “This
nomination should go nowhere,” he said, “until the Castro regime makes
significant and irreversible progress in the areas of human rights and
political for the Cuban people, and until longstanding concerns
about the Cuban regime’s theft of property and crimes against American
citizens are addressed.”

Source: Obama nominates the first ambassador to Cuba in more than 50
years | In Cuba Today –
www.incubatoday.com/news/article104533161.html

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