US sends a new top diplomatic envoy to Cuba
Washington: The United States has selected career diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis as its new top diplomat in Havana, a State Department official has said.
DeLaurentis, who has previously worked as a diplomat in Havana, Bogota and at the United Nations, will lead the US Interests Section in the Cuban capital, a de facto embassy.
The United States and Cuba do not have full diplomatic relations, but rather interests sections in their respective capitals.
Washington has had an economic embargo on Cuba -- the only Communist-ruled country in the Americas -- since 1962.
DeLaurentis succeeds John Caulfield in the post. Caulfield is due to complete his assignment in July.
US-Cuban ties, poor for more than five decades, were further strained after an American contractor was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Cuba in 2011 for allegedly distributing communications equipment as a USAID contractor.
Havana has suggested it could release Alan Gross, 65, if Washington frees the remaining "Cuban Five" intelligence agents, who were convicted in a 1998 US spy case -- a prospect the United States has soundly rejected.
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