Cuba’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is José Ramón Cabañas Rodríguez?

Monday, January 25, 2016
José Cabañas

José Cabañas, a long-time member of Cuba’s Foreign Service, assumed a new position in Washington without having to move his office.


Cabañas, who had been the chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington since 2012, presented his credentials as Cuba’s first ambassador to the United States in more than 50 years to President Barack Obama on Sept. 17, 2015.


His appointment to the post came two months after a restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which had ended during Cold War hostilities in 1961.


Cabañas is from Matanzas, a city on Cuba’s north coast. He earned a bachelor’s degree in international political science in 1983 from the Raúl Roa García Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana. He would return there years later to serve as a senior professor.


Cabañas joined Cuba’s Foreign Ministry in 1984, when he wrote “Radio Martí: A New Aggression,” a study at how the United States used the media against the Cuban government. He began focusing primarily on North America in 1986 and in 1990 was assigned to the Cuban Embassy in Canada. Between 1990 and 1993, he served first as third secretary, then as second secretary at the mission in Ottawa.


Cabañas returned to Havana in 1993 as deputy director of the ministry’s North American Affairs Division. The following year he moved to the Cuban Residents Abroad Division, where he worked—along with a three-year stint in Consular Affairs—until 2001.


That year he stepped away from North America to become ambassador to Austria. Starting in 2005, he stepped down from that post but remained in Vienna as Cuba’s ambassador to the many international organizations based there.


In 2005, Cabañas was brought back to Havana to serve as director of the Division for Document Management in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2009 he was named Vice Minister of Foreign Relations, a post he held until taking over Cuba’s Washington mission. During the year that he won his ministerial appointment, he earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Havana.


Cabañas maintained a somewhat higher profile than his predecessors, traveling around the United States speaking to various organizations. He was the first head of Cuba’s Interests Section to allow himself to be filmed at such events.


Cabañas and his wife, Edilia González, have two children.  

-Steve Straehley


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