On August 19, President Obama bypassed months of Congressional stagnation with the recess appointment of Mari Carmen Aponte as Ambassador of the U.S. to El Salvador. She had been nominated in December 2009, but her confirmation had stalled in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April due to Republican senators’ concerns over her past romantic relationship with Roberto Tamayo, “a Cuban-born insurance salesman who was alleged to have ties to both the FBI and Fidel Castro’s intelligence apparatus” (Foreign Policy‘s The Cable, 8/19/10).
Commenting on the four recess appointments he had made that day, President Obama stated, “At a time when our nation faces so many pressing challenges, I urge members of the Senate to stop playing politics with our highly qualified nominees, and fulfill their responsibilities of advice and consent. Until they do, I reserve the right to act within my authority to do what is best for the American people” (White House press release, 8/19/10).
Aponte was sworn in as ambassador on September 22, 2010. The position had been vacant for almost two years prior to Aponte’s arrival. Robert Blau served as the Deputy Chief of Mission for half a year before assuming the role of Chargé d’Affaires from January 20, 2009 to September 25, 2010.
After presenting her credentials to President Funes, she held a press conference highlighting her “interest in women’s issues, strengthening the rule of law, and economic prosperity for all” (US Embassy in San Salvador, news archive 9/27/10). On October 7, she held a nearly 1-hour long interview on the Salvadoran TV program Frente a Frente, discussing bilateral relations and U.S. foreign policy in the region. She stressed that El Salvador, Central America, and Latin America were all priorities of the Obama Administration, stating that, “The United States has a great interest in a safe, prosperous, and stable El Salvador. The United States wants to support democracy; commitment on behalf of President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and myself, is unbreakable.” She also categorized relations between the governments of the United States and El Salvador as “extraordinarily good.” To view the entire interview, visit the U.S. Embassy of El Salvador’s YouTube page, which features the interview in three video segments: USEmbassyElSalvador’s Channel.
Since arriving at the Embassy, Ambassador Aponte has already made strides in implementing the Obama Administration’s goals in the region. On October 8, Aponte was present at the inauguration of the newly completed U.S. Science Corner for Energy Research at the Universidad Don Bosco (located in Soyapango, San Salvador). The project is aligned with the Administration’s emphasis on renewal energy, which satisfies approximately 50% of El Salvador’s current energy needs (US Embassy in San Salvador, news archive 10/08/10).
The U.S. Embassy summarizes her prior work history as the following:
Before assuming the position of U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Mari Carmen Aponte worked as an attorney and consultant with Aponte Consulting, and served on the Board of Directors of Oriental Financial Group. From 2001-2004, Ms. Aponte was the Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration.
Prior to that, she practiced law in Washington D.C. for nearly twenty years. Ms. Aponte has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council of La Raza, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the University of the District of Columbia. She was a member of the Board of Rosemont College, and served as president of the Hispanic National Bar Association; the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia; and as a member of the District of Columbia Judicial Nominations Commission. In 1979, as a White House Fellow, Ms. Aponte was Special Assistant to United States Housing and Urban Development Secretary Moon Landrieu. Ms. Aponte has a B.A. in Political Science from Rosemont College, an M.A. in Theatre from Villanova University, and a J.D. from Temple University. (U.S. Embassy of El Salvador – About Us: Ambassador)