Last night, Senate Republicans blocked the confirmation of Mari Carmen Aponte, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to El Salvador in a vote of 49 to 37. Aponte has served as ambassador since September 2010 as a recess appointee.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) led the Republican campaign against the lawyer and Hispanic activist, raising questions “over unfounded rumors that her boyfriend of years ago was a Cuban spy” and her support for Salvadorean President Mauricio Funes’ Decree 56, “which prohibits all forms of discrimination by the government of El Salvador on the basis of sexual orientation or identity.” On June 28, Aponte penned an op-ed praising the Funes’ directive, writing, “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.” Anti-gay groups in El Salvador and DeMint objected to the sentiment:
DEMINT: Ms. Aponte has enflamed tensions in the same country she should be improving diplomatic relations. Her decision to publish an opinion piece hostile to the culture of El Salvadorians present even more doubts about her fitness for the job. This op-ed upset a large number of community and pro-life groups in El Salvador who were insulted by Ms. Aponte’s rhetoric. A coalition of more than three dozen groups has since written the Senate asking its members to oppose Ms. Aponte’s confirmation. I quote from their letter in which they wrote, “we respectfully request that Ms. Aponte be removed from post as soon as possible so that El Salvador may enjoy the benefits of having a person as a government representative of your nobile country.”
As Aponte explained, “The OpEd reflects the policies of the Obama administration, the Salvadorean government and sixty-three other countries,” she said to La Prensa, “It was not drafted as an insult to anyone.” But during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in November, DeMint took it upon himself to “apologize” to the groups “on behalf of the United States and reassure them that most Americans share their values.”