In yet another disappointing vote for the Latino community, the U.S. Senate voted 49–37 to block the nomination of President Obama’s nominee, Mari Carmen Aponte, to serve as ambassador to El Salvador. Leading the charge against Aponte were Senate Republicans who expressed concern over her alleged ties to a Cuban spy and her support for LGBT rights. Aponte was already serving as our nation’s ambassador to El Salvador, but senators voted on her reappointment as President Obama appointed her during a Congressional recess. Sen. Harry Reid (D–Nev.) said Aponte may get another vote before the end of the year, but that seems unlikely given the ambitious amount of work Congress wants to get through.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R–S.C.), Aponte’s chief critic, said the Puerto Rican diplomat had a shady past that made her unfit to serve as ambassador.
From the AP:
Thirteen years ago, when Clinton nominated Aponte, reports surfaced that a former live-in boyfriend, Roberto Tamayo, had ties to Cuban intelligence in Fidel Castro’s regime and that Cuban intelligence agents had tried to recruit her. The head of the Foreign Relations Committee at the time, Sen. Jesse Helms (R–N.C.) signaled he would question Aponte about the allegations at her confirmation hearing; she withdrew her nomination.
In the end, the FBI cleared her. On two occasions, Aponte has received top-secret security clearances.
DeMint also cited a Spanish language op-ed Aponte authored in June, which expressed support for LGBT rights. The South Carolina legislator claimed that the article showed that she was out of touch with the Salvadoran people, who are 57 percentCatholic. The piece, titled, “For the Elimination of Prejudices Wherever They Exist,” was in response to State Department directives to diplomats around the world to acknowledge and support gay pride month. In the op-ed, Aponte wrote:
"No one should be subjected to aggression because of who he is or who he loves. Homophobia and brutal hostility are often based on lack of understanding about what it truly means to be gay or transgender. To avoid negative perceptions, we must work together with education and support for those facing those who promote hatred."
NCLR is very disappointed that that a majority of senators chose to prevent this talented Latina from continuing to serve her country in favor of scoring political points against the president. It is especially deplorable that senators chose to use her support for equality as reason for blocking her nomination. The Senate missed a prime opportunity to show its support for the Latino community last night and voters will remember this next November.