Today, Melissa spoke on the floor of the City Council to urge Senate Republicans not to block a vote on the nomination of Puerto Rican-born Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte to be our Ambassador to El Salvador, a position she held after President Obama appointed her in 2010.
In Congress, Republican obstruction continues to prevent President Barack Obama’s ability to run the country. The latest victim is Puerto Rican-born Mari Carmen Aponte, the nominee for Ambassador to El Salvador. In 2010, President Obama appointed Aponte to be our Ambassador to El Salvador but due to Republican filibustering, the Senate never confirmed her and her appointment expired last year. President Obama reappointed her and her nomination will come up to a vote today, if Republicans in the Senate don’t block it.
Mari Carmen Aponte is exactly the kind of leader we want representing us in El Salvador. During her brief tenure as ambassador, she brought together former enemies from El Salvador’s civil war, helping to nurture their fragile democracy and keep the peace. When a constitutional crisis threatened to derail that recovery and erupt into violence, Ambassador Aponte brought Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to El Salvador, and the two of them worked together to bring rivals together for dialogue and discussion. This ultimately broke the impasse which appeared close to destroying Salvadoran democracy. Her support for democracy and human rights helped improve US-Salvadoran relations and Ambassador Aponte negotiated the comprehensive Partnership for Growth Join Action Plan which will promote economic growth in El Salvador as well as business opportunities for both American and Salvadoran businesses. Both El Salvador and the US benefited from her leadership.
However, despite her leadership in El Salvador, Republicans in the Senate are blocking Ambassador Aponte’s reappointment. Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina claims, without evidence, that 20 years ago, Ambassador Aponte went out with a man who the Cuban government tried to recruit as a spy. A former American counterintelligence officer said that her former boyfriend was actually an FBI informant and Ambassador Aponte’s relationship with this man ended twenty years ago. Since then, she has received security clearances and has performed sensitive roles admirably.
DeMint has also attacked Ambassador Aponte for praising El Salvador’s efforts to stop violence against gays and lesbians. Only Washington Republicans would think that’s objectionable. What is more, Ambassador Aponte was just doing her job. After El Salvador signed a UN declaration against anti-gay and –lesbian violence, the State Department urged ambassadors to recognize Gay Pride Month. Ambassador Aponte recognized the Salvadoran government’s work to prevent violence. For Senator DeMint, that’s “imposing a pro-gay agenda.”
Republicans are attacking Ambassador Aponte for doing her job well, working to promote tolerance and stop violence. Mari Carmen Aponte is exactly the kind of leader we should want representing us in El Salvador and I urge Senate Republicans not to block a vote on her nomination. Their obstruction threatens to sacrifice a remarkable Latina as well as good relations with El Salvador, all for the sake of hurting President Obama. It’s long past time; Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte deserves a Senate vote.