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Top US Embassy Official in Havana Exits; Deputy Fills In


FILE - Officials watch the raising of the American flag at the newly opened U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, Aug. 14, 2015.

The U.S. Embassy in Cuba said Tuesday that its top official, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, had left Havana after completing his three-year mission and that his deputy would become interim charge d'affaires.

Scott Hamilton, a career diplomat who has served as deputy chief of mission in Havana for two years, will become chief until further notice, the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Havana said.

"[DeLaurentis'] departure is part of the normal rotation cycle of career diplomats," he said, adding he could not comment on DeLaurentis' next assignment.

Some Cuba onlookers had questioned whether DeLaurentis, who led the embassy during the historic U.S.-Cuban detente and restoration of diplomatic ties in July 2015, would stay on under U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trump last month announced a partial rollback of that opening toward Cuba, ordering tighter restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and a clampdown on U.S. business dealings with the Caribbean island's military.

DeLaurentis had been U.S. chief of mission in Cuba since August 2014, his third posting in Havana.

Then-U.S. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, last year nominated the career diplomat to be the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than five decades, but his nomination got stuck in the Republican-controlled Senate.

"The president will decide when and if we nominate an ambassador to Cuba or any country," the Havana U.S. Embassy spokesman said. "Should the president decide not to nominate an ambassador, a chargé will be named in accordance with the department's principal officer assignment procedures."

Hamilton has previously undertaken overseas assignments in Botswana, Ecuador, Colombia, South Africa and Russia.

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