Republicans block appointment of US ambassador to El Salvador over pro-gay rights article

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Last night, the US senate blocked president Barack Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to El Salvador after Republicans expressed outrage at an article she wrote in support of gay rights and unfounded rumours that an ex-boyfriend was a Cuban spy.

Mari Carmen Aponte, a Washington based lawyer has served as a ‘recess’ appointed temporary ambassador to El Salvador since last September. Her temporary appointment was due to run out at the end of this year.

With a vote of 49-37, the Senate refused back the president’s nomination.

Conservative anger toward Ms Aponte is in part based on a column she wrote in June for the El Salavdor newspaper, La Prensa Grafica in response to a request by the US state department urging ambassadors to support gay pride month.

She wrote: “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.”

Within the article, she noted that El Salvador, a primarily Roman Catholic country, had joined the United States in signing a UN deceleration for the elimination of violence against gays and lesbians.

A number of family groups wrote to Senate members criticising Ms Aponte for “abusing her diplomatic status, showing a clear disdain concerning our values and cultural identity.”

Republican senator Jim DeMint, writing last month in Human Events said: “Our relationship with the Salvadoran people has been one of trust and friendship for decades. We should not risk that by appointing an ambassador who shows such a blatant disregard for their culture and refuses to clear unsettled doubts about her previous relationships. It’s time to bring Ms Aponte home.”

The Senate debate also resurfaced rumours that more than a decade ago her former boyfriend, Roberto Tamayo, had ties to Cuban intelligence. Allegations that were cleared by the FBI many year ago.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid left open the possibility that a further vote on Ms Aponte’s nomination may be brought before the Senate.