Cuba grants visa to senior U.S. diplomat to lead Havana embassy

  08 February 2018    Read: 1473
Cuba grants visa to senior U.S. diplomat to lead Havana embassy
Cuba has given a visa to a senior American diplomat to lead the U.S. embassy in Havana, a U.S. official said, in a sign both nations want to keep open lines of communication despite a sharp deterioration in relations since President Donald Trump took office, reports quoting Reuters.

The diplomat, Philip Goldberg, will take up the post as charge d‘affaires within days, the U.S. official said. He will head a mission that Washington stripped of many staff four months ago amid a dispute over mystery illnesses among its diplomats on the Communist-run island.

He is likely to spend about six months in the position though the length of his stint is not certain, said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Goldberg would be the highest ranking U.S. foreign service officer to serve as charge d‘affaires in Havana, said the U.S. official. The fact that Washington selected a diplomat of his rank - one of the senior-most serving career U.S. diplomats - and that Havana accepted him when it could have stalled or rejected him suggests a desire on both sides to maintain links.

The U.S. State Department declined comment. The Cuban foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Goldberg, whose selection for the job was first reported in December, has previously served as ambassador in the Philippines, chief of the U.S. mission in Kosovo and assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research.

He was expelled as ambassador from Cuba’s socialist ally Bolivia in 2008 for what President Evo Morales said was fomenting social unrest, charges that the State Department described at the time as “baseless.”

U.S.-Cuban relations have deteriorated since Trump took office in January last year and reversed elements of a detente pursued by Democratic former President Barack Obama’s administration. Trump, a Republican, has tightened U.S. trade and travel restrictions on the island and reverted to characterizations of the Cuban government that echo the countries’ long Cold War-era hostility.

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