WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Monday blocked efforts to confirm Mari Carmen Aponte, a Washington D.C.-based attorney, as the permanent ambassador to El Salvador, because, according to one source, Aponte is an LGBT advocate who has previously called for the “elimination of prejudices” against LGBT people.
Aponte has served as temporary ambassador to the Central American nation since September 2010 after the President, facing GOP opposition to her nomination, made her a recess appointee. Her temporary tenure is slated to expire at the end of this year.
Her confirmation in the Senate was blocked by a 49-37 vote. Reaction from the White House was swift — Press Secretary Jay Carney called the move “political posturing.”
“Today’s filibuster is one more example of the type of political posturing and partisanship the American people are tired of seeing in Washington,” Carney said, in a prepared statement.
“Whether it’s allowing up or down votes on our representatives to the Western Hemisphere, allowing consumers to have someone looking out for their interests, or extending and expanding the payroll tax cut for the middle class, Republicans in Congress need to stop thinking about the next election and start putting the best interests of the American people first,” Carney said.
According to a source on Capitol Hill, speaking to LGBTQ Nation on the condition of anonymity, the principal reason Senate Republicans — led by tea-party favorite, conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) — blocked Ambassador Aponte’s nomination was due to her pro-LGBTQ advocacy, citing an editorial column she wrote last June in the Salvadoran newspaper, La Prensa Grafica.
Aponte authored the column, “For the Elimination of Prejudices Wherever They Exist,” in response to a memorandum distributed in May at the direction of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that urged ambassadors and U.S. foreign service diplomatic personnel to support LGBT pride month.
In her editorial, Aponte highlighted the fact that both the United States and El Salvador were among more than 80 sovereign states whom had signed a United Nations declaration calling for the elimination of violence against LGBTQ people.
“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,” Aponte wrote.
Aponte also pointed out that El Salvador President Mauricio Funes had signed a decree the previous year in May 2010 prohibiting discrimination by the Salvadoran government based on sexual orientation.
Approximately 57 percent of El Salvador’s population is Roman Catholic, and after the Aponte’s column was published, a few prominent Salvadoran family and Catholic organizations wrote to American lawmakers criticizing her for “abusing her diplomatic status,” arguing that Aponte displayed a clear disdain for their “cultural values and identity.”
Said one source to LGBTQ Nation, American “family values” organizations, in particular the Washington-based Family Research Council, also played a significant role in lobbying against Aponte, urging lawmakers to oppose her confirmation, and suggested she be removed as a U.S. Ambassador.
In a piece he penned last month in the publication Human Events, DeMint openly criticized Aponte’s pro-LGBT stance, and called it a “blatant disregard” for the El Salvadoran culture. “It’s time to bring Ms. Aponte home,” he wrote.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) issued the following statement last night, leaving open the possibility of revisiting the ambassador’s confirmation proceedings:
“Senate Republicans once again put politics above policy by blocking the confirmation of a dedicated public servant. In the fifteen months Mari Carmen Aponte has served as our ambassador to El Salvador, she finalized an important international, anti-crime agreement and forged a strong partnership between our nations.
“The Puerto Rican community and all Americans are right to be proud of Ms. Aponte’s accomplishments as a diplomat representing our nation, as I am.
“I am disappointed Republicans continued a long-running trend of obstructing qualified nominees just to score political points. Unfortunately, defeating President Obama is more important to Senate Republicans than confirming qualified nominees to represent our country in Latin America.”
Conservative anger towards her is also based on unfounded rumours that an ex-boyfriend was a Cuban spy, allegations that were cleared by the FBI as untrue, reported the Associated Press.
Thirteen years ago, when [President] 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.
In the end, the FBI cleared Aponte, and on two occasions, she has received top-secret security clearances.