CISPES statement on the new US Ambassador to El Salvador

News

On August 19th, President Obama appointed Maria del Carmen Aponte to be the new U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador. The President’sappointment during the Senate’s August recess broke a hold on her nomination by a few right-wing Republicans like Jim DeMint (R-SC). Her appointment will last until January 2012, when she would be re-nominated andapproved by the Senate.

 Ms. Aponte is a Puerto Rican lawyer andformer director of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration (2001-2004).She has also served on the boards of the NationalCouncil of La Raza (NCLR), the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund,and the University of the District ofColumbia. 

Last summer, CISPES issued some criteria for a new Ambassador to El Salvador,in consultation with Salvadoran community organizations in the U.S.We noted that, “Given the vast importance of the Salvadoran immigrant community in the US,the new ambassador should be prepared to work in support of immigrant rights...”

 It is exciting that the U.S. government has finally named a bilingual woman to be the new Ambassador to El Salvador, especially someone like Ms. Aponte who, through her work with the NCLR and other organizations, has advocated forrights of Latinas/os. 

El Salvadoris experiencing a severe economic and social crisis due to the assault onimmigrants in the U.S.,and an Ambassador who is committed to the civil and human rights of immigrants and their families is a welcome and necessary change.

According to the Salvadoran newspaper Diario CoLatino, “The authorities inthe Ministry of Foreign Relations consider Aponte to be aware of the needs ofthe Hispanic community and knowledgeable about Central America. The Salvadoran government hopes to work with the newAmbassador on all of the issues on the bilateral agenda, in order to expand the excellent relationships established with the White House, the Congress and thepeople of the United States.”

The appointment of Ms. Aponte alsoprovides an opportunity to remove Embassy personnel named by previousAmbassadors who presumed a paternalistic, interventionist and aggressive stance toward El Salvador.We hope to see a change in attitudefrom the new Ambassador and staff, to one of openness, honesty, and respect.

We are aware, however, that Ambassador Aponte will be working on behalf of the U.S. State Department, which has thusfar failed to demonstrate the new attitude of “mutual respect” with Latin America promised by the President.  Perhaps the most glaring example is continued U.S.support for the murderous regimes of Pepe Lobo following the coup d’etat in Honduras. Furthermore, the human rights crisis for immigrants will not end as long as the U.S. continues to impose the neoliberal economic model throughout the hemisphere, militarize policing andborders and privatize prisons.

Ambassador Aponte's actions will be the ultimate proof of whether or not her appointment represents real change in an Embassy that has historically intervened in El Salvador's internal affairs atdevastating costs to the Salvadoran people. We call on the new Ambassador tobreak with this history and base her initiatives on the principles of respect forthe Salvadoran people and recognition of Salvadoran self-determination and autonomy.

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