Foreign Affairs

Aponte’s Agenda

Mari Carmen Aponte

Mari Carmen Aponte proved those who doubted her nomination to become U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador right when she wrote a questionable editorial that inflamed tensions in the very country where she is supposed to be improving diplomatic relations.

Aponte has shown poor judgment over the years and due to overriding concerns about her background and qualifications for the position, has twice failed to be confirmed to an ambassadorship by the U.S. Senate.

Now that President Obama has granted her a recess appointment to the plum assignment, she’s igniting controversy. Ambassadors should be able to promote American interests while, at the same time, respecting the culture of the country where they work. That’s something Ms. Aponte utterly failed to do when she wrote an editorial in a Salvadoran newspaper lecturing their people on the need to accept and support the gay lifestyle.

Ms. Aponte published a piece that discussed “homophobia” in June 2011—the month the Obama Administration designated as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender pride month.  “Homophobia” is “often based on lack of understanding about what it truly means to be gay or transgender” the Ambassador wrote in La Prensa Grafica. She went on to say that everyone has a responsibility to “inform our neighbors and friends about what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”

Aponte praised Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her previous remarks that “gay rights are human rights” and also noted gay pride month is celebrated with “parades, festivals, and educational campaigns” in the United States where the gay rights movement “celebrates its identity throughout the country.”

Her provocative editorial stirred controversy and was rebuked throughout Latin America. A wide range of religious, community and family groups from across the region wrote a response to Ms. Aponte in El Diario de Hoy that said: “Ms. Aponte, in clear violation of the rules of diplomacy and international law, you intend to impose to Salvadorans, disregarding our profound Christian values, rooted in natural law, a new vision of foreign and bizarre values, completely alien to our moral fiber, intending to disguise this as ‘human rights.’”

The coalition, which includes dozens of organizations from El Salvador and other countries like Mexico and Honduras, said the only thing that they agreed with Ms. Aponte about is that violence against homosexuals should be repudiated, but it should be condemned just the same as crimes against “skinny, fat, tall or short people.” And, they added, “this of course does not mean accepting the legal union between same sex individuals.”

“Not accepting the legitimacy of ‘sexual diversity’ does not mean we are violating any human rights,” the coalition stated.

The coalition has since written a letter asking the U.S. Senate to oppose her nomination and remove Aponte from her position “as soon as possible so that El Salvador may enjoy the benefits of having a better person as a government representative of your noble country.”

It is highly unlikely she could survive a Senate confirmation vote, which requires a 60-vote threshold. The White House has continually denied requests for information regarding her past ties to Cuban intelligence officials and her misguided editorial doesn’t inspire confidence, either.

The reason why Aponte was rejected by all Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year stems from her first sunken nomination.

In 1998, Aponte was nominated by President Bill Clinton to become Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, but her nomination was withdrawn after questions were raised about the 12 year romantic relationship she had with a man whom she lived with for eight years. He was targeted as part of an FBI counterintelligence investigation and allegedly worked for Cuba’s spy agency. A high-ranking Cuban defector also claimed that Cuban intelligence tried to recruit Aponte to be a spy for the Cuban government.   Rather than discuss her past relationship, Aponte withdrew her nomination and it was filled by someone else.

Since then she has served as a board member for the National Council of La Raza and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund—two organizations that serve radically liberal interests.

When President Obama nominated Aponte to become the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador many senators were again concerned about her past relationship with Cuban intelligence officials as well as her qualifications. Instead of allowing senators to access that information, Obama granted her a recess appointment in August 2010.

Ms. Aponte’s decision to publish an opinion piece hostile to the culture of El Salvadorans, presents even more doubts about her fitness for the job. The Senate should reject her nomination when her recess appointment expires at the end of this Congress and force the president to appoint a new nominee who will respect the pro-family values upheld by the people of El Salvador.

Our relationship with the Salvadoran people has been one of trust and friendship for decades. We should not risk that by appointing an ambassador who shows such a blatant disregard for their culture and refuses to clear unsettled doubts about her previous relationships. It’s time to bring Ms. Aponte home.

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