Obama nominates ambassador to Cuba

Obama nominates ambassador to Cuba
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President Obama plans to nominate the U.S.’ first ambassador to Cuba in nearly six decades, a move that could touch off an election-year fight with Republicans over his thaw with the former Cold War foe. 
Obama has picked Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who serves as the country’s top diplomat in Havana, the White House announced Tuesday. 
“There is no public servant better suited to improve our ability to engage the Cuban people and advance U.S. interests in Cuba than Jeff,” Obama said in a statement. 
The president said that having an ambassador would make it easier for the U.S. to advance its interests in Cuba and convey objections over its “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,” Obama said. 
It’s unlikely the GOP-controlled Senate will confirm DeLaurentis before Obama leaves office in January. 
It’s an effort to rebuke Obama’s decision to reopen ties with Cuba, a move they believe rewards the communist island nation, which still commits human-rights abuses against its citizens. 
“A U.S. ambassador is not going to influence the Cuban government, which is a dictatorial, closed regime,” Rubio, a Cuban-American, said in a July interview.
Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes disagreed in an interview with Yahoo News, which first reported the nomination. 
“To us, the concept that it’s a reward for a country to have an ambassador makes no sense,” Rhodes said. “On the contrary, having an ambassador gives you a higher profile, a higher-ranked advocate for what America cares about.”
But Rhodes admitted that “it will be hard” to confirm DeLaurentis. It’s unclear whether the Senate would even consider his nomination during the lame-duck session of Congress, when it will likely have to pass a government spending bill and handle other pressing issues.
DeLaurentis, a career diplomat, has served as the chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Havana since 2015, when Obama formally reestablished diplomatic ties with Cuba. Before he began his service in Cuba a year earlier, he served in posts at the U.S. mission to the United Nations and the State Department. 
Obama’s nomination comes as he is trying to put his Cuba policy on solid footing before he leaves the White House. 
The administration has announced a series of moves to expand trade and travel to Cuba. The first commercial flight between the U.S. and Cuba landed at the end of August.