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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Here’s why the White House waited 14 months to nominate ambassador to Cuba

Here's why the White House waited 14 months to nominate ambassador to Cuba
BY FRANCO ORDOÑEZ AND NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
fordonez@mcclatchydc.com

WASHINGTON
One of the White House's key architects of its Cuba policy said the
Obama administration waited 14 months to nominate an ambassador to Cuba
because officials knew how easy it would be for a U.S. senator like
Marco Rubio to block the nomination and it didn't want such a fight to
distract from other priorities.

"We knew we had to get a bunch of things done first that were
priorities, like negotiating the establishment of diplomatic relations,
the state sponsor of terrorism issue, some of the initial bilateral
cooperation, the president's trip," said U.S. Deputy National Security
Adviser Ben Rhodes.

On Tuesday, the White House nominated Jeffrey DeLaurentis as the "first
U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years." He has been the chief of
the U.S. Embassy in Havana since it reopened last year after President
Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro reestablished diplomatic
relations.

IT'S ALSO, FRANKLY, THE AREA WHERE CONGRESS HAS THE CAPACITY TO BE A
ROADBLOCK. IT'S NOT AS SIMPLE AS GETTING A MAJORITY VOTE.
U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes

The nomination, as expected, has already created a new source of tension
between the White House and Miami's congressional delegation, which has
largely opposed the administration's cozying up to the communist government.

Charging that Obama has capitulated to the Castro regime, the South
Florida Republican Rubio warned he'll fight the DeLaurentis' nomination.

He's done it before.

Last year, Rubio took a months long stand against the nomination of
Roberta Jacobsen, who helped negotiate the diplomatic opening with Cuba,
as the new ambassador in Mexico City despite broad bipartisan support
for her in Congress.

Rubio lifted his hold on the nomination this past spring only after the
Obama administration agreed to extend sanctions against key Venezuelan
officials for three years. It'll likely take much more for Rubio to back
down on the DeLaurentis nomination considering his unrelenting
opposition on the Cuba rapprochement.

"This nomination should go nowhere until the Castro regime makes
significant and irreversible progress in the areas of human rights and
political freedom for the Cuban people, and until longstanding concerns
about the Cuban regime's theft of property and crimes against American
citizens are addressed," Rubio said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fl., called the nomination a " a direct
slap in the face to the people of Cuba and to American ideals" and said
it helps legitimize the Castro regime's brutal tactics in the eyes of
the international community.

Aside from the South Florida delegation, Rhodes said DeLaurentis has
great support among a bipartisan group of members of Congress, the
administration, the business community and large parts of the
Cuban-American population.

The White House is well aware of Rubio's opposition to any nomination of
an ambassador, but Rhodes said it was important to send a positive
message about U.S.-Cuban relations.

"They'll put up a fight and we'll see if we can get him a vote," Rhodes
said. "Hopefully we can. If not, we wanted to set the precedent that
governments nominate ambassadors to Cuba. And it'll be evident over time
that it's self-defeating to just deny us the resource of an ambassador."

NORA GÁMEZ TORRES REPORTS FOR MCCLATCHY'S EL NUEVO HERALD.

Source: Why the White House waited 14 months to nominate ambassador to
Cuba | In Cuba Today - http://www.incubatoday.com/news/article104711306.html
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