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Obama picks envoy to Havana as Cubans await change

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Havana (CNN)President Barack Obama this week nominated the first US ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years, capping a multi-year process to open a new diplomatic relationship with Havana.

Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Obama’s nominee, currently serves as the US charge d’affaires in Cuba. Despite his qualifications, DeLaurentis is unlikely to receive the promotion because senators opposed to Obama’s Cuba opening are unlikely to approve his nomination.
    It is the latest example of American moves laden with symbolism that don’t always translate into on-the-ground changes for the island just 90 miles from the Florida Keys, though the US president and his policy remains popular even so.
    Cuba residents expected the renewed ties with the US would help improve their quality of life, but more than a year after the formal resumption of relations, many told CNN that they feel not much has changed.
    There have been moves toward improving economic ties between the two countries, and earlier this month the first commercial flights resumed between the US and Cuba. But Obama’s call for Congress to lift the US embargo against Cuba hasn’t been successful.
    When Obama made a historic visit to the Communist country in March, many in the US and Cuba hoped it would be a catalyst for the government to grant more freedoms to its people and open the doors for American businesses in the country.
    “When (Obama) was here, we were yelling happily, ‘Obama! Obama!,’ as if we were excited he was visiting us,” a Cuban told CNN in Spanish. “What we really meant was, ‘Obama! Help us!,’ because we want more freedom like Americans.”
    This middle-aged man, like most Cuba citizens who spoke to CNN, said he didn’t want his name to be included in a story in the US media for fear of a backlash from his government.
    Most Cubans who did agree to speak anonymously had only positive things to say about Obama.
    “When he visited, that was a big deal and important to the country. Everyone paid attention,” one teenage girl told CNN.
    Clinton is the first major presidential candidate to advocate lifting the US embargo on Cuba.
    In Miami last year, she called for the trade blockage to end: “The Cuba embargo needs to go, once and for all.”
    Trump, in comparison, has recently vowed to roll back the improved relations with Cuba until the island’s leaders improve their record on human rights
    Last September, however, Trump told the Daily Caller that he’s okay with normalizing relations with Cuba.
    “I think it’s fine. I think it’s fine, but we should have made a better deal. The concept of opening with Cuba — 50 years is enough — the concept of opening with Cuba is fine,” Trump said. “I think we should have made a stronger deal (with Cuba).”
    Earlier this month, Trump shifted his stance, saying he would reverse the arrangement President Barack Obama struck to reopen diplomatic relations and reestablish some trade with Havana unless the Cuban government meets his demands to restore political freedoms and free political prisoners.
    “All of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done with executive order, which means the next president can reverse them. And that is what I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands,” Trump said on September 16.
    Whether or not the embargo will be completely lifted under a future US administration remains to be seen. But Cubans continue to hope.
    “I look forward to the future,” one Cuban told CNN in Spanish. “And I have confidence that the worst is behind us.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/29/politics/cuba-us-ambassador-obama/index.html