Cuba gets its first ambassador to the US for 54 years

Jose Cabanas presented his credentials to President Barack Obama

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The Independent US

Veteran diplomat Jose Cabanas has cemented his place as a footnote in diplomatic history after he became Cuba’s first ambassador to the US in 54 years.

Mr Cabanas ran Havana’s de facto embassy, or Interests Section, in Washington since 2012 and became charge d’affaires when relations were formally restored on July 20. But on Thursday, he officially became ambassador when he presented his credentials to US President Barack Obama.

“The ceremony took place at the White House Oval Office, the venue of the presidential office, in the midst of a day when the US leader received 16 new ambassadors,” said a Cuban embassy statement, according to Reuters.

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Jose Cabanas is a veteran Cuban envoy

“The Cuban ambassador's accreditation to the United States is a further step within the process to normalise relations between both countries.”

On Friday, the the Obama administration announced a range of measures to loose regulations relating to travel, commerce and investment.

The nations had been without formal diplomatic relations since 1961, two years after the revolution that brought former president Fidel Castro to power.

But last December, Mr Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced a series of steps that have seen an historic realignment of the relationship between the two Cold War enemies.

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Mr Obama and Mr Castro have worked to change the dynamic of their countries' relationship

The White House confirmed Mr Cabanas' status in a brief statement, naming 16 newly-accredited envoys. In a long diplomatic career, Mr Cabanas has also been Cuba's envoy to Austria and was a foreign affairs vice-minister. Washington has yet to name an ambassador to Cuba.

The two countries are continuing to tty and resolve a number of outstanding issues, including the issue of human rights on the island, and claims by US citizens to property confiscated in the aftermath of the Cuban revolution.

Havana, meanwhile, is seeking an end to the US embargo and the return of the naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

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