Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ambassador Aponte nomination hearings in Senate

Mari Carmen Aponte is the US Ambasador to El Salvador.   She was originally nominated by president Obama to fulfill that role in December 2009, but after the Senate failed to act on her nomination, Obama granted her a recess appointment.   She assumed the post in September 2010.  Obama then renominated her in February 2011.  

There was a hearing on Ambassador Aponte's new nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 8, 2011.  You can read her written testimony here.

In a rare show of support, three ex-presidents of El Salvador from ARENA, Franciso Flores, Alfredo Cristiani, and Armando Calderón Sol, all traveled to Washington to back her nomination.

Cristiani told El Diario de Hoy that he supported Aponte because of her ability to work with all factions within El Salvador, the work she had done in the short time of her holding the position, and her ability with Latina heritage to understand aspects of the country's culture.

Another expression of support came fron anti-Castro activist Felix Rodriguez in an editorial in the Miami Herald :
Ambassador Aponte arrived in the midst of this ideological tug of war. Showing enormous diplomatic dexterity, she has forged a very close relationship with President Funes. This close relationship has helped maintain the historically close ties between the United States and El Salvador, despite this complex political environment. 
Her diplomatic successes have earned her the unprecedented support of the private sector and of the most prominent political leaders in El Salvador. Three former presidents of El Salvador — Francisco Flores, Armando Calderon Sol, and Alfredo Cristiani — took it upon themselves last month to travel to Washington and visit with leading congressional figures to request and support the confirmation of Ambassador Aponte before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Such a bold step and unusual display of outright support for an ambassador by former presidents who have all enjoyed extremely close relations with the United States is unheard of. It simply never happens. 
The fact that it did speaks volumes as to what these Salvadoran statesmen think of Ambassador Aponte and her time as U.S. Chief of Mission in El Salvador. They are simply overwhelmingly impressed. And so am I.
The opposition to Aponte's nomination continues to be led by conservative Senator Jim DeMint who said

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.
The opinion piece of which DeMint writes was an editorial entitled For the Elimination of Prejudices Wherever They Exist, which which appeared on June 28 in La Prensa Grafica. The editorial expressed the commitment of the US to the elimination of violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals, and was completely consistent with US policy.

If not approved by the Senate, Ambassador Aponte's recess appontment will terminate at the conclusion of the current session of the 112th Congress at the end of the year.   Let's hope the Senate acts promptly to confirm this capable representative from the US to El Salvador.

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