By ANITA SNOW – Associated Press – July 02, 2015
HAVANA (AP) — From his office high above Havana, Jeffrey DeLaurentis has a sweeping view of the cerulean Florida Straits and the blood-red letters declaring Cuba’s defiance of the United States.
“Homeland or Death!” reads the sign erected in front of the U.S. Interests Section, a declaration installed 15 years ago when DeLaurentis was a more junior officer working to defuse a standoff over the fate of child rafter Elian Gonzalez.
Now, on this third assignment in communist Cuba, DeLaurentis is the top U.S. diplomat on the island, working to bring an end to more than a half-century of hostilities between the two countries. Known for his low-key style and public discretion, the 61-year-old diplomat also is on a short list for U.S. ambassador to Cuba, if there is to be one.
On Wednesday, DeLaurentis hand-delivered a letter from the White House to the Cuban Foreign Ministry about converting missions known as interest sections in the countries’ respective capitals into full embassies.
Cuba said ceremonies to do that will be held July 20, though the U.S State Department said it does not yet have a date.