While Havana welcomed the move, Republican senators pledged to block any ambassador nomination, citing lack of progress in democracy and human rights
Barack Obama has a 0% chance of getting his nomination for ambassador to Cuba approved by Congress, according to the union representing US diplomats.
The president this week announced Jeffrey DeLaurentis as his choice to become the first American ambassador to Cuba in more than half a century, aiming to put the seal on his detente with the communist island nation.
But while Havana welcomed the move, Republican senators including Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas have pledged to block any ambassador nomination, citing a lack of progress in democracy and human rights.
Asked to rate the chances of DeLaurentis being approved, sgeir Sigfsson, spokesman for the American Foreign Service Association, said: I would say 0%. With Marco Rubio on the Senate foreign relations committee, its never going to happen.
Rubio and Cruz are both sons of Cuban immigrants. They have sworn to do anything they can against the normalisation of relations, Sigfsson added. He might not even get a hearing.
It is therefore a seemingly futile gesture on Obamas part, Sigfsson said. The president is exercising his right to be a late lame duck president trying to do everything he can. Its symbolic. He drove through the normalisation of relations and gets to claim hes the one who did it.
The US and Cuba severed diplomatic ties in 1961, deep in the cold war. Obama and President Ral Castro of Cuba made a surprise announcement in December 2014 that they had secretly agreed to restore diplomatic relations, including reopening embassies in each others countries. Obama made a historic visit in March, and commercial flights resumed last month.
Obama called the naming of an ambassador a commonsense step toward more productive relations and said DeLaurentis currently the top diplomat at the US embassy in Havana is the best person for the job.
There is no public servant better suited to improve our ability to engage the Cuban people and advance US interests in Cuba than Jeff, the president said in a statement. Jeffs leadership has been vital throughout the normalisation of relations between the United States and Cuba.
He added: Having an ambassador will make it easier to advocate for our interests, and will deepen our understanding even when we know that we will continue to have differences with the Cuban government. We only hurt ourselves by not being represented by an ambassador.
On Wednesday, Gustavo Machn, deputy director for US affairs in the Cuban foreign ministry, described the news as welcome but said he will use a bilateral commission meeting in Washington on Friday to push for more.
The Cuban delegation will point out the lack of advances in the economic, commercial sphere, Machn said in Havana. We consider the measures adopted by President Obamas administration are positive but still insufficient and limited.