President Obama said Tuesday he will nominate Jeffrey DeLaurentis to be the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than half a century.
DeLaurentis currently is the top diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, which opened last year after relations were normalized, ending a freeze of 54 years. He served twice before in Havana in the 1990s, first as a consular officer, then as head of the political-economic section.
“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,” Obama said.
DeLaurentis must be confirmed by the Senate. Some congressional critics of normalizing relations with Cuba have said they intend to oppose anyone for ambassador.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who is ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the State Department and foreign operations, said the time has come for Washington to have an ambassador in Havana.
“We need an ambassador who knows Cuba, who is respected by the Cuban Government, and who will stand up for U.S. interests and values,” he said, noting the increasing number of Americans traveling to Cuba.