DECEMBER 07, 2011
President Obama is determined to push through a foreign ambassadorship for a controversial figure whose close ties to a spy from a terrorist-sponsoring nation derailed a similar post for the same aspiring diplomat in the Clinton Administration.
The tale actually dates back to the late 1990s when Bill Clinton nominated Puerto Rican activist Mari Carmen Aponte, a former board member of the leftist National Council of la Raza (NCLR) and Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), as ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
Aponte had worked as a volunteer in the White House personnel office and helped raise campaign money for Clinton. But she had a rather large skeleton in her closet, a decade-long romantic relationship with a reported Cuban intelligence spy named Roberto Tamayo. Aponte and Tamayo lived together and the couple met frequently with Cuban intelligence agents, according to various news reports.
Since 1982 Cuba has appeared on the State Department’s list of countries that have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. That means restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance, a ban on defense exports and sales and other financial restrictions. Iran, Sudan and Syria also appear on the list alongside the communist island.
Aponte’s relationship with the Cuban spy came out when the FBI vetted her for the Dominican ambassadorship years ago and has resurfaced because Obama is set on making her the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. To avoid discussing her relationship with Tamayo at Senate confirmation hearings, Aponte withdrew Clinton’s nomination to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
Evidently, Obama thought enough time had passed to make it all disappear. The president originally nominated Aponte in December 2009 and made her a recess appointee about a year later in order to bypass Republican opposition. As her temporary, one-year tenure expires, Senate confirmation can no longer be avoided so the issue has again resurfaced.
Members of the vocal Congressional Hispanic Caucus are making it a race issue, accusing Republicans of denying a Hispanic woman a rare shot at a prestigious diplomatic post, according to a national news story. An Illinois congressman (Luis Gutierrez) took it a step further, comparing Aponte’s opposition to scrutiny Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor got during her confirmation hearings.
“Between Mari Carmen Aponte and Sonia Sotomayor, there seems to be something amiss over in the Senate with Republicans refusing to confirm strong, smart Puerto Rican women for important positions for which they are eminently qualified,” Gutierrez said.
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