U.S. names interim charge d’affaires at embassy in Havana

U.S. names interim charge d’affaires at embassy in HavanaHAVANA, July 11th The U.S. Embassy in Cuba has a new interim chief at its seaside building in Havana: career diplomat Scott Hamilton.

Hamilton, who has served as deputy chief of mission since July 2015, replaces Jeffrey DeLaurentis as Chargé d’Affaires.

A brief notice posted on the embassy website does not specifically mention the change of guard or reasons for DeLaurentis’ departure, although he has publicly stated that the island would likely be his final post before retiring.

A spokesman for the embassy told el Nuevo Herald on Tuesday that DeLaurentis completed his three-year cycle as head of the embassy on July 7.

“His departure is part of the normal rotation cycle of career diplomats,” a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Havana said in an email.“Deputy Chief of Mission Scott Hamilton will serve as the Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim, until further notice. The President will decide when and if we nominate an ambassador to Cuba or any country.”

Regarding Ambassador DeLaurentis’ next assignment, the spokesman said: “I don’t have an announcement to make on that at this time.”

DeLaurentis, a longtime diplomat, became the first to head a U.S. Embassy on Cuban soil in more than a half century, after both nations reestablished diplomatic relations. DeLaurentis, who played a fundamental role in mending relations with Havana, was nominated by former President Barack Obama to serve as U.S. ambassador. But the nomination was blocked in the Senate by Florida Republican Marco Rubio, who said the post should not be filled until the Cuban government made strides on the issues of human rights and claims for property confiscated from the United States.

The State Department has not yet published a formal statement on DeLaurentis’ departure and he still appears as the person in charge on the embassy’s website.

A notice published by the island-based Cuba Posible website bidding DeLaurentis farewell said he returned to the U.S. on July 8.

Hamilton, a senior foreign service officer, will lead the embassy under President Donald Trump and a revamped Cuba policy, which, while not relinquishing diplomatic relations with the Cuban government, seeks to put more pressure on thorny issues such as human rights and the return of U.S. fugitives living in Cuba.

Prior to his Havana post, Hamilton served as director of the Department of State’s Office of Central American Affairs between 2013 and 2015.