Obama to nominate DeLaurentis as ambassador in Havana

obamaHAVANA, Sept. 28th President Obama said Tuesday that he will nominate Jeffrey ­DeLaurentis to be the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than half a century.

DeLaurentis is the top diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, which opened last year after relations werenormalized, ending a freeze of 54 years. He served twice before in Havana in the 1990s, first as a consular officer and 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’s nomination will need to 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 (Vt.), who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on State, foreign operations and related programs, 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.