Obama nominates first US Ambassador to Cuba in over 50 years

us-cuba-ambassador-reuters US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle stand with US ambassador to Cuba, Jeffrey DeLaurentis (L), as they meet with embassy staff in a hotel in Havana | Reuters

US President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated Jeffrey DeLaurentis as the first US Ambassador to Cuba in over 50 years.

"Today, I am proud to nominate Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis to be the first US Ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years," Xinhua news agency quoted Obama as saying in a news release issued by the White House.

Obama praised DeLaurentis' vital "leadership" throughout the normalisation of relations between the US and Cuba, which were two former rivals.

"There is no public servant better suited to improve our ability to engage the Cuban people and advance US interests in Cuba than Jeff," Obama said.

The President described DeLaurentis, a career diplomat, as having "extensive experience in Cuba and Latin America".

DeLaurentis has been working with Cuba on issues that advance US national interests, such as law enforcement, counternarcotics, environmental protection, combating trafficking in persons, expanding commercial and agricultural opportunities, and cooperation in science and health, 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," Obama said.

The US and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations in July 2015, ending more than five decades of hostilities. Obama paid a historical visit to Cuba in March in the first such visit by a sitting US President in nearly 90 years, Xinhua news agency reported.

DeLaurentis has been the Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba, since 2015 after serving as Chief of Mission at the US Interests Section in Havana from 2014 to 2015.

Prior to that, he served as Ambassador and Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs at the US Mission to the United Nations from 2011 to 2014. Before that, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Since beginning his State Department career in 1991, DeLaurentis has served in a number of overseas posts, including twice before in Havana, first as consular officer from 1991 to 1993, then as Political-Economic Section Chief from 1999 to 2002.

He also served as political counsellors at the US Mission to the UN in Geneva, and the US Embassy in Bogota, Colombia.

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