Obama welcomes Cuban ambassador at the White House

Cuban Ambassador to the U.S. José Ramón Cabañas.
Cuban Ambassador to the U.S. José Ramón Cabañas.

President Barack Obama welcomed José Ramón Cabañas, who has been officially named as Cuba’s ambassador in the U.S., in the Oval Office at the White House.

Cabañas was among diplomats from 16 countries who turned in their credentials Thursday afternoon as recently named ambassadors. The ceremony in the White House formally marks the beginning of an ambassador’s functions in Washington.

Until now, Cabañas was working as the head of Cuba’s new diplomatic headquarters in Washington as the ambassador in charge of operations. Previously, he was the Chief of the Section regarding Cuban Interests.

The event was closed to the press and his formal designation as Cuba’s ambassador had not yet been announced until Thursday.

Cuba’s Ministry of Exterior Relations released a statement confirming that Cabañas “turned in his ambassador credentials, as a plenipotentiary ambassador of the Republic of Cuba in the United States of America.”

According to information from the ministry, Obama and the Cuban ambassador “had a verbal exchange about the state of bilateral relations.”

Diplomatic relations between both nations were reestablished July 20, after being at a standstill since 1961.

“The accreditation of Cuba’s ambassador in the United States is another step in the process towards normalizing relations between both countries,” according to the ministry’s statement.

The nomination for an ambassador at the United States’ embassy in Havana, Cuba, has not yet been announced.

El Nuevo Herald/Miami Herald reporter Nora Gamez Torres reviews the big stories out of Cuba. This week, she talks about Pope Francis' upcoming visit to the island.

Follow Nora Gamez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

McClatchy News Service reporter Lesley Clark contributed to this article.