WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated Jeffrey DeLaurentis, currently the top diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, to serve as Washington’s first ambassador to Cuba since the restoration of diplomatic ties in July 2015.
“I am proud to nominate Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis to be 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,” the president said in a statement.
“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,” Obama said.
The nomination is subject to confirmation by the Senate, where it could face opposition by opponents of normalization.
DeLaurentis, a career diplomat, had held numerous posts in Washington and abroad since joining the State Department in 1991, including that of deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
The ambassador-designate “engages broadly with the Cuban people and expresses the United States’ strong support for universal values and human rights in Cuba,” Obama said.
“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,” the president said.
The process of normalization was launched in December 2014 and embassies were opened in the respective capitals some 19 months later.
In March, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928.