Ambassador Aponte Coming Home?

Mari Carmen Aponte, the interim Ambassador from the US to El Salvador, may be coming home in the next few weeks as her recess appointment expires at the end of the month.

President Obama nominated Mari Carmen Aponte when he took office in 2009, but Senate Republicans blocked her confirmation over her past relationship with a Cuban-American they believe was a Cuban spy. She finally arrived in El Salvador in September 2010 when President Obama circumvented the Senate with a recess appointment, which expires at the end of the month. President Obama re-nominated Ambassador Aponte this year, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmed her nomination this week, but Republicans are again preventing the Senate from bringing her nomination to the floor for a vote.

Ambassador Carmen Aponte fueled Republican opposition in June when she published an op/ed piece in the La Prensa Grafica supporting the gay rights movement in El Salvador. Opposition to her final confirmation is led by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), who claims that she is “strongly promoting the homosexual lifestyle” and attempting “to impose a pro-gay agenda” on El Salvador. The article praised Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes for signing a law prohibiting anti-gay discrimination by the government, as well as the UN pledge to eliminate violence against LGBT people. She also said that all people have the responsibility to break the cycle of violence and discrimination.

According to The Hill,

The White House is blasting Senate Republicans for playing politics with President Obama’s nominated ambassador to El Salvador, saying a hold on the diplomat would severely hurt US ties in the region.

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing this week, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) spoke out on behalf of Ambassador Aponte, saying that she has done a“solid job in her capacity as ambassador,” and “I have not heard of or seen any substantive rationale for her not continuing in this post.”

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) pointed out that since 1998, when Aponte was nominated to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic from which she withdrew herself from consideration, she has twice received top security clearances.

Ambassador Aponte also has the support of Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), who also serves on the Foreign Relations Committee. During a hearing last week he pointed out that since 1998, when Aponte was nominated to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic from which she withdrew herself from consideration, she has twice received top security clearances. He argues that any questions regarding her past relationships were answered during those processes, and are no longer an issue.

Barring any last minute support from Senate Republicans, Ambassador Aponte will be leaving El Salvador at the end of December and the US will be without an ambassador.

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