Presidential Delegation to the Dominican Republic For President Medina’s Inauguration

Posted: 3:12 am ET
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President Obama designated Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez as lead in the Presidential Delegation to the Dominican Republic to attend the inauguration of  President Danilo Medina on August 16, 2016 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  The other members of the delegation include, Ambassador James W. Brewster Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, and AA/S Mari Carmen Aponte, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Hoy la delegación encabezada por el Secretario de Trabajo de los Estados Unidos, Tomás Pérez, también conformada por la secretaria de Estado adjunta para Latinoamérica, Mari Carmen Aponte y por el Embajador James W. Brewster, está en la #JuramentaciónDanilo2016 en representación del Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América, Barack Obama. (Via FB)

Hoy la delegación encabezada por el Secretario de Trabajo de los Estados Unidos, Tomás Pérez, también conformada por la secretaria de Estado adjunta para Latinoamérica, Mari Carmen Aponte y por el Embajador James W. Brewster, está en la #JuramentaciónDanilo2016 en representación del Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América, Barack Obama. (Via FB)

 

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State/WHA Gets Mari Carmen Aponte as Acting Assistant Secretary

Posted: 12:05 am ET
Updated: 5:19 pm PT
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On May 5, the State Department appointed Mari Carmen Aponte as the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (State/WHA).  Which probably means there won’t be a formal nominee for this position until after the elections in  November.  The assistant secretary is responsible for managing and promoting U.S. interests in the region by supporting democracy, trade, and sustainable economic development, and fostering cooperation on issues such as citizen safety, strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law, economic and social inclusion, energy, and climate change.

Previously, Ms. Aponte was the Ambassador of the United States to El Salvador from 2012 until February 2016. In 2015, President Obama nominated her to be the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States (OAS) with the rank of Ambassador. (PN628). That nomination has been stuck in committee since last year.

The WHA leadership is currently composed of career diplomat Paco Palmieri who is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary; and four five deputy assistant secretaries (DAS): career diplomats John CreamerAlex LeeGonzalo Gallegos, and Kenneth Merten (who is also the Haiti Special Coordinator). The fifth DAS is former WH person staffer Juan Gonzalez who also previously served as Chief of Staff to the former WHA Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela.

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US Embassy El Salvador: Peace Corps Suspends Program in World’s New Murder Capital

Posted: 12:42 am EDT
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On January 11, Peace Corps announced the suspension of its program in El Salvador where there were 58 volunteers assigned.  The program was previously suspended in 1980 amid increasing violence prior to the civil war.  The government of El Salvador invited the Peace Corps to return to El Salvador in 1993 after the signing of the Peace Accords that ended the civil war.  In 1994, Peace Corps El Salvador invited new two-year Volunteers to serve in the project areas of Water Sanitation and Health, Agroforestry and Soil Conservation, and Small Business Development.  Volunteers have worked in El Salvador since then until this year’s program suspension. Below is the announcement:

The Peace Corps today announced the suspension of its program in El Salvador due to the ongoing security environment. The agency will continue to monitor the security situation in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador to determine when the program can resume.

The Peace Corps has enjoyed a long partnership with the government and people of El Salvador and is committed to resuming volunteers’ work there in a safe and secure environment.

Volunteers’ health, safety and security are the Peace Corps’ top priorities. More than 2,300 Peace Corps volunteers have worked on community and youth development projects in communities throughout El Salvador since the program was established in 1962.

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USA Today recently called El Salvador the world’s new murder capital:

Government data show 6,657 people were murdered in the small country last year, a 70% increase from 2014. The homicide rate of 104 people per 100,000 is the highest for any country in nearly 20 years, according to data from the World Bank.

“Keep in mind, you’re talking about the national average,” Adriana Beltrán of the Washington Office on Latin America said about El Salvador’s homicide rate. “If you start looking at where the pockets of violence are, it’s shocking.”

A June 22, 2015 Travel Warning  continues to warn U.S. citizens that crime and violence levels in El Salvador remain high, and U.S. citizens traveling to El Salvador should remain alert to their surroundings.  The Travel Warning notes that there is no information to suggest that U.S. citizens are specifically targeted by criminals; however, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country.” Since January 2010, 34 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador including a nine-year-old child in December 2013. During the same time period, 419 U.S. citizens reported having their passports stolen, while others were victims of violent crimes.”

Last summer, the Guardian reported that “With one killing on average every hour, August is on course to be the deadliest month since the 1992 peace accord. On current trends, the homicide rate will pass 90 per 100,000 people in 2015, overtaking that of Honduras as the highest in the world (not including battlegrounds like Syria). This would make El Salvador almost 20 times deadlier than the US and 90 times deadlier than the UK.”

El Salvador has been a 15% COLA and 15% hardship differential since September 7, 2014. It  is not designated as a danger pay post.

The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador is headed by Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte, a noncareer appointee  who assumed charged in 2010. She has been nominated in July 2015 to be the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States(OAS). That nomination is currently pending in the SFRC.  Her second in command is career FSO, Michael Barkin who was previously the Deputy Director of the Office of Canadian Affairs in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) and served as Principal Officer and Consul General in Matamoros, Mexico.

 

Related itms:

El Salvador Travel Warning | June 22, 2015

El Salvador 2015 Crime and Safety Report | May 20, 2015

 

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Senate Finally Confirms Ambassador Aponte, and She Just Unpacked Her Household Effects!

On June 14, cloture was invoked on Executive Calendar #501, the nomination of Mari Carmen Aponte, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador to the Republic of El Salvador, upon reconsideration, by a vote of 62-37.  The Senate subsequently confirmed the Aponte nomination by voice vote.

President Obama released a statement on the confirmation of Ambassador Aponte.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also issued this statement.

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Holy mother of goat and all her crazy nephews at the Senate!

The Senate thumbed down this nomination in December 2011 so when her recess appointment ran out, she left El Salvador in January 2012. Which probably meant she spent her holidays packing out. So then she got back to the U.S. and presumably had to wait weeks for her household effects to arrive from San Salvador. Then she had to spend weeks unpacking all the boxes and putting stuff away. And just as she was done with that, the Senate decided to confirm her. And so she’s going back to El Salvador. Which means, she’s going to be packing out again. And unpacking once she gets to San Salvador. And who knows what happens in November 2012?

What a wasteful group of people working for us in the more deliberative and more prestigious body in the Congress.  All that cost money, you guys! Couldn’t you have made up your mind in December and saved on shipping boxes and relocation expenses?

Ambassador Aponte’s nomination was previously held up by Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). DeMint was demanding more information about Aponte’s ancient boyfriend (see Ambassador Aponte’s Nomination “DeMinted” Over Old Boyfriend, LGBT Op-Ed, and [Fill in the Blank].  Marco Rubio apparently had some issues with WHA policies.

In the June 14 vote, Marco “if I do a good job as vice president” Rubio switched sides and voted for Ambassador Aponte’s confirmation.  Don’t know why.  Must be because the Rubio hold forced the Obama Administration to change its WHA policies.  Quit laughing, yep, that must be it.  Senators Lugar, McCain, Ayotte, Graham also voted for Aponte’s confirmation.  Senator DeMint got tired of holding the Senate hold (like the figure four leglock), so he and 36 other GOP senators voted against confirmation.

Would it be too much to ask for our Senators to cast their votes based on the qualifications of the nominees instead of a party line vote? After all, the person we’re sending out to represent us is out there representing the United States of America, not Blue America or Red America.

Ambassador Aponte has not changed in six months.  She’s still the same person with the same baggage of an old boyfriend, and her LGBT op-ed has not been rewritten to be more palatable.  So nothing has changed except the Senators’ minds and the games they play.

Domani Spero