US President Barack Obama has nominated a top American diplomat as the first ambassador to Cuba in more than five decades.
Career Diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis was appointed for the post on Tuesday, after being the top American official at the US embassy in the Cuban capital Havana since relations were restored last year.
“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 in a statement.
DeLaurentis’ nomination requires confirmation on behalf of the US Senate, a move that is likely to face stiff opposition from Cuban-American lawmakers, such as Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who have sought to garner local support by opposing Obama’s policies.
The United States
broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 and placed an official embargo against the country in 1962.
The two countries became ideological foes soon after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power and their ties remained hostile even after the end of the Cold War.
Cuban President Raul Castro (R) receives US President Barack Obama at the Gran Teatro in Havana, Cuba, on March 22, 2016. (photo by AFP)
The two countries held 18 months of secret talks that led to a joint announcement on December 17, 2014, that the two long-time adversaries would restore diplomatic relations and release prisoners on both sides.
The United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations in July 2015. Despite this, Washington continues to maintain its commercial, economic, and financial embargo, which makes it illegal for US corporations to do business with Cuba.
The US president, who visited Havana in March, has been engaged in a row with the Republicans in control of the Congress to lift the full embargo on Havana, but has failed so far.
Some portions of the embargo have been relaxed but not enough to appeal to Havana. Regular commercial flights have also resumed and cruise ships can now sail from Miami to Havana.
In the meantime, Washington keeps pressuring the Cuban authorities over what it claims are human rights violations in the large Caribbean island country.