The United States has tapped Jeffrey DeLaurentis, America’s top diplomat in Havana, to become the first official Ambassador to Cuba in five decades. “The appointment of an Ambassador is a common-sense step forward toward a more normal and productive relationship between our two countries,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.
Mr. Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced a thaw in relations in December 2014. The two countries restored full diplomatic relations in July 2015. Since then, Washington and Havana have taken once-unthinkable steps to mend ties after more than half a century of enmity. Mr. Obama has visited Cuba and relaxed portions of the U.S. embargo imposed since 1962. Mr. DeLaurentis is already in Havana and previously worked in Bogota and at the United Nations. But his nomination, which requires Senate confirmation, is likely to face stiff opposition in Congress, where Cuban-American lawmakers have sought to garner local support by opposing Mr. Obama’s policies.
Any Senator could place an anonymous hold on the nomination. Several Republican lawmakers have opposed Mr. Obama’s outreach to Cuba. Florida Senator Marco Rubio the nomination. “A U.S. Ambassador is not going to influence the Cuban government, which is a dictatorial and closed regime,” Mr. Rubio said in a statement.
“This nomination should go nowhere until the Castro regime makes significant and irreversible progress in the areas of human rights and political freedom for the Cuban people.”