U.S. Relations

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.

El Salvador Government, Mauricio Funes, Politics, U.S. Relations

President Obama Re-nominates Ambassador Aponte to El Salvador

The White House announced yesterday that President Obama has again nominated Mari Carmen Aponte to be the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador. President Obama first nominated her to the post in December of 2009, but Senate Republicans led by Jim DeMint held her nomination in Committee. Sen. DeMint (R-SC) voiced concerns that Ms. Aponte had a romantic relationship in the 1990s with Roberto Tamayo, a Cuban who has alleged ties to the FBI and Fidel Castro.

President Obama used a recess appointment in August 2010 to by-pass the Senate and Ambassador Aponte was sworn in on September 22, 2010. As a recess appointment, her term will end in January 2012, giving the administration just under ten months to get her nomination approved by the Senate.

Senator DeMint and other Republicans have asked to see to her FBI files to better understand her relationship with Mr. Tamayo. In 1998, President Clinton nominated Ms. Aponte to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, but she withdrew her nomination when Senator Jessie Helms threatened to ask probing questions about the relationship.

The Salvadoran Embassy website posted the following biography for the Ambassador:

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.

President Obama will be visiting El Salvador March 22-23 during a three-stop tour of Latin America. Last week, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes said that they will be discussing the fight against poverty, which he says provides fertile ground for common crime and organized crime to flourish.