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Updated: 7:28 p.m.
The Senate today defeated the nomination of Mari Carmen Aponte to be the ambassador to El Salvador after Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) raised concerns over her qualification.
The Senate voted 49 to 37 on the Aponte nomination, short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) voted with Republicans against cloture, while Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted with Democrats in favor.
Democrats argued that Aponte was eminently qualified and has a record of distinction.
Aponte “is an advocate for national security and American values” in the region, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said.
She is currently the United States’ Salvadoran ambassador after receiving a recess appointment last year. But that appointment expires at the end of the year unless the Senate acts to confirm her nomination.
The vote on the Aponte nomination came after the Senate voted 70 to 16 to cut off debate on the nomination of Norman Eisen to be the ambassador to the Czech Republic. The nomination was then confirmed by voice vote.
DeMint laid out his opposition to Aponte in an article he wrote last month in Human Events. In the item he charged that an op-ed written by Aponte in El Diario de Hoy was pro-homosexual and anti-family. Her article discussed homophobia and said that everyone has a responsibility to “inform our neighbors and friends about what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”
DeMint noted that the Aponte article riled conservatives in El Salvador who formed a coalition urging the Senate to reject her nomination.
“The coalition, which includes dozens of organizations from El Salvador and other countries like Mexico and Honduras, said the only thing that they agreed with Ms. Aponte about is that violence against homosexuals should be repudiated,” DeMint wrote.
He also charged that she had a relationship with a man targeted as part of an FBI counterintelligence investigation and allegedly worked for Cuba’s spy agency, and that many questions over that episode remain.
“The White House has continually denied requests for information regarding her past ties to Cuban intelligence officials and her misguided editorial doesn’t inspire confidence, either,” DeMint wrote.
Opposition to the Aponte nomination also came from Sen. Marco Rubio, who said it was over his concern about the administration’s foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere and had nothing to do with Aponte personally.
“Rather than stand up to tyrants and promote democracy, this administration’s policy towards Latin America has been defined by appeasement, weakness and the alienation of our allies,” the Florida Republican said. “Earlier this year, I encouraged the administration to seize these nominations as an opportunity to outline a plan to steer U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere towards renewing America’s commitment to promoting democracy and free markets.”
Correction: Dec. 12, 2011