Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement on President Obama's nomination of Jeffrey DeLaurentis to serve as the first ambassador to Cuba in over half a century:
"Formally nominating an ambassador is the latest historic move in our efforts to finally rebuild our relationship with Cuba. I welcome the nomination of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who has devoted his career to public service. I met with him in Havana, and I believe he is well qualified to help guide our unfolding relationship with Cuba. I will support his confirmation, and I urge my colleagues not to continue their pattern of blocking nominees and leaving key positions unfilled.
"Naming an ambassador to Cuba ultimately benefits Americans who are traveling to and attempting to do business in Cuba. And each step we have taken to modernize our relationship with Cuba has benefitted the Cuban people and our national interests by creating small but significant changes in that country. Cubans are building a stronger private sector economy and loosening restrictions on the internet. We should do more. The time is right to lift the embargo with Cuba and allow U.S. citizens to freely travel there. The best diplomats of American values are Americans themselves, and I will continue to work on the Foreign Relations Committee to push Congress to take these further steps toward modernizing our relations with Cuba."
Udall is a longtime advocate for normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba, and he supports legislation permitting U.S. citizens to freely travel to Cuba, efforts to open the internet, and to end the embargo blocking U.S. trade with Cuba. In August 2016, Udall helped launch an “Engage Cuba” branch in New Mexico in an effort to increase ties between New Mexicans and Cubans and increase new business opportunities. Udall has traveled to Cuba to meet with Cuban officials, religious and business leaders, entrepreneurs and artists to discuss the impacts of the embargo and travel restrictions on American and Cuban families.
In November 2014, Udall met with American prisoner Alan Gross shortly before Gross was released from the Cuban jail where he had been held since 2009. In May 2015, Udall introduced the Cuba Digital and Telecommunications Advancement Act - or Cuba DATA Act - to allow American companies to help Cuba build the 21st-century telecommunications infrastructure necessary in today's global economy and to empower Cubans to realize their full potential. He also is a cosponsor of the Agricultural Export Expansion Act to help support and improve the export of American agricultural commodities to Cuba, as well as the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act.