This Thursday, September 17, Cuban diplomat José Ramón Cabañas presented his credentials to the President of the United States, Barack Obama, to officially become the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the island to Washington in over half a century.
“Exchanging ambassadors since ancient times is a sign of normality and respect among nations,” Cabañas told Granma.
He added that the appointment and recognition by the host country, as in any part of the world, immediately provides “a greater level of access to the official bodies of the other (state).”
As of now, the diplomat explained, Cuba will be able to directly engage on a range of issues with the majority of U.S. government agencies.
Regarding the Cuban diplomatic mission’s short term plans, he explained that they will continue to spread the truth about the island, promote new relations and clarify all the remaining obstacles to normal relations between the two countries.
“In particular we are going to work intensely to implement the agreements of the first meeting of the Bilateral Commission held in Havana last week,” the ambassador noted, referring to the roadmap outlined to advance the process of the normalization of relations between the two countries over the coming months.
According to a statement published on the official website of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, the accreditation ceremony was held in the Oval Office of the White House, in which the U.S. president received 16 new ambassadors.
During the encounter, the Cuban diplomat and the U.S. president exchanged views regarding the state of bilateral relations, which were broken off in January 1961 and officially reestablished last July 20.
“The accreditation of the Ambassador of Cuba to the United States is another step in the process towards the normalization of relations between both countries,” the statement concludes.
Cabañas, who graduated from the Raúl Roa García Higher Institute of International Relations (ISRI) in 1983, became head of the then Cuban Interests Section in the United States in late 2012. Following the announcements of December 17, 2014, he was one of the participants in the talks held in Havana and Washington for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of embassies.
Since July 20, when the reestablishment of diplomatic ties came into effect, and through this Thursday, the diplomat served as interim Chargé d'affairesof the Cuban Embassy in Washington.
During his over 30 year career, Cabañas has served different roles in the North America section of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, as well as in other missions abroad. He was ambassador to Austria, representative to the UN agencies in Vienna, head of the Department of Consular Affairs and Cuban Residents Abroad and served as deputy Foreign Minister before his appointment in Washington.
The last Cuban ambassador in Washington was Dr. Ernesto Dihigo López de Trigo, who was recalled for consultations in 1959.
The United States has not yet appointed its ambassador in Havana, a process which must go through Congress. Several Senators opposed to the Obama administration’s change of policy toward Cuba have said they will block any proposal from the State Department.
At the head of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana is Jeffrey DeLaurentis, in the role of Chargé d'affaires ad interim.