On June 14th, the US Senate confirmed Mari Carmen Aponte to return to her post as US Ambassador to El Salvador. President Obama originally appointed Senator Aponte in August 2010; she began her term in September. (For more background on Ambassador Aponte, click here for an article in El Salvador Watch).
However, in December 2011, Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-NC) and others, blocked her confirmation, ostensibly on the grounds of an op-ed that she wrote in the Salvadoran news supporting President Funes’ decision to sign a decree prohibiting all forms of discrimination by the government based on sexual orientation or identity.
Nine Senate Republicans joined the Democrats on Thursday to confirm Ambassador Aponte in a 62-37 vote. While the details around their change in position are unclear, the Washington Post and others report that Marco Rubio, tea party junior Senator from Florida, who some claim is being groomed as a Vice-Presidential candidate for Mitt Romney in order to appeal to Latina/o voters, may have played a role.
The controversy around Ambassador Aponte’s nomination reflects several issues that have a direct impact on US policy toward El Salvador, including the priority that both the Republicans and Democrats are placing on courting the Latina/o vote for the upcoming Presidential elections, the significant influence of a few conservative Senators on US foreign policy toward Latin America, and the key role that El Salvador plays in US policy for the entire Central American region.
While LGBT news outlets in the US are celebrating the confirmation of a ‘pro-gay’ ambassador, CISPES and our allies remain clear that Ambassador Aponte will be representing the interests and agenda of the US State Department, which continues to pursue an agenda of export and foreign investment-led “development,” through such projects as the Partnership for Growth and the Millennium Challenge Fund, and rising military control over public security.