State Department file photo

A Nomination for the First U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in 50 Years

President Obama nominated a longtime diplomat for the top post in the communist country.

President Obama has nominated a top diplomat to serve as the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years. But the nomination may face some roadblocks in the Senate.

Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who currently serves as the chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Havana, has worked in the State Department since 1991 as a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. Obama said his nomination is “a common sense step forward toward a more normal and productive relationship” between the U.S. and Cuba. He adds:

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. He is exactly the type of person we want to represent the United States in Cuba, and we only hurt ourselves by not being represented by an Ambassador. If confirmed by the Senate, I know Jeff will build on the changes he helped bring about to better support the Cuban people and advance America’s interests.

DeLaurentis served in Havana twice before and played a vital role in normalizing relations with the communist country in recent years. The U.S. embassy in Havana reopened August 2015, a month after the two countries restored diplomatic relations.

Several Republican senators, including Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, have vowed to block a nomination for U.S. ambassador to Cuba. Rubio, ina letter to Secretary of State John Kerry last June, said he would remain opposed to a nomination until Cuba enacted political and human rights reforms.