The Obama administration will not move immediately to place an ambassador in Cuba but will name Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the career diplomat who has headed its diplomatic mission in Havana since last summer, as charge d’affaires, the State Department said Monday.
DeLaurentis will be the “senior most official” at the embassy, which the administration said last week will open on July 20, a department statement said. Cuba, which will open its U.S. Embassy in Washington on the same day, has not indicated when it will name an ambassador.
The openings will come seven months after President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro simultaneously announced their intentions to reestablish diplomatic ties, following nearly two years of secret talks. On Wednesday, after four rounds of negotiations over the parameters for their diplomatic missions, the two leaders exchanged letters setting the date.
Some congressional critics of the opening, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), both presidential hopefuls, have said they will oppose any Obama nominee as ambassador to Cuba.
The State Department emphasized that restrictions on U.S. citizen travel to Cuba and the economic embargo remain in place and can be lifted only by Congress. The statement also said that the United States will continue implementing the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows any Cuban citizen in the United States to apply for permanent residency after one year.