HAVANA TIMES — As of Thursday, Cuba officially has an ambassador to the United States, two months after Washington and Havana resumed bilateral relations after a long history of confrontation, reported dpa news.
Diplomat Jose Ramon Cabañas Rodriguez handed President Barack Obama his credentials as Cuba’s ambassador to the United States at an official ceremony that took place in the Oval Office. Besides Cuba, Obama received a total of 16 new ambassadors to Washington, including the Mexican Miguel Basanez Ebergeny.
The new head of Cuban diplomacy in the US had been appointed Charge d’Affaires of the newly reopened Cuban Embassy in Washington on July 20. Before that date he served as the head of the Cuban Interests Section in the United States.
The Cuban diplomat, with nearly 30 years in the foreign service; in 2012 he relieved Jorge Bolaños, who led the Interests Section for five years.
After the brief encounter between President Obama and the Cuban Ambassador, the Cuban embassy noted that “the accreditation of the Ambassador of Cuba to the United States is another step in the process towards normalization of relations between the two countries.”
Although Obama has not yet appointed an ambassador to Cuba, the Republican opposition in Congress has threatened to block his appointment.
Among those who oppose the appointment of a US ambassador in Havana is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a candidate for the Republican presidential primary. Rubio is of Cuban origin and opposes any rapprochement with Havana until the government of Raul Castro makes a series of reforms with concrete results.
The Senate, dominated by Republicans, must confirm the appointment and that could take months.
The Confirmation of ambassadors is usually a mere administrative formality, but in the last year it has become a headache for the Obama administration, which has seen Republicans block many of the nominations, causing a long waiting list.
Senate confirmation of Roberta Jacobson, currently Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Department of State, as the new ambassador of Mexico is still pending.
The appointment of an ambassador in Cuba would be a symbolic change, but would not change much on a practical level in the day-to-day operation of the embassy. A full normalization of relations will not occur until the United States lifts the embargo, which is also in the hands of Congress, dominated by Republicans.
Diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the charge d’affaires, is currently the top official at the US embassy in Havana.