Obama Nominates First US Ambassador to Cuba in More Than 50 Years

Posted: Sep 28, 2016 7:30 AM

More than a year after the United States Embassy in Havana reopened, President Obama has taken yet another step in ‘normalizing’ relations with Cuba by nominating Jeffrey DeLaurentis as ambassador to the country.

“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,” Obama said. “He is exactly the type of person we want to represent the United States in Cuba, and we only hurt ourselves by not being represented by an Ambassador. If confirmed by the Senate, I know Jeff will build on the changes he helped bring about to better support the Cuban people and advance America’s interests.”

DeLaurentis has been at the State Department since 1991, serving as a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He is currently acting as the chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Cuba.

While Obama said his nomination is “a common sense step forward toward a more normal and productive relationship,” it will likely face resistance from several Republicans in the Senate. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, for example, have vowed to block a nomination for an ambassador to the communist-led country over a number of issues such as human rights abuses, lack of political freedom, and U.S. fugitives living in the country.   

If confirmed, however, DeLaurentis would be the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba since the two countries severed relations more than 50 years ago.