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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. KERRY. Madam President, I rise to speak about Mari Carmen Aponte, the President's nominee to be Ambassador to El Salvador.

Those of us who have had the privilege of being here for some period of time--Senator INOUYE has been here almost 50 years; I have been here for 27; Senators LEAHY, LUGAR, BAUCUS, and others have also served for a significant period of time. Brief as my stay has been, never have I seen this institution behaving as it does today.

Certainly, ideology isn't new to the American political arena and ideology isn't unhealthy. But in a Senate where the extraordinary measure of a filibuster has become an ordinary expedient, where Senate procedure is used as a political tool to undermine almost every proposal by the President and his Democratic colleagues, I think we all need to take a long, hard look at our priorities.

One priority that is staring us in the face is to work for the swift confirmation of Ms. Aponte. El Salvador has been without a U.S. Ambassador for 5 months. And I would ask colleagues how does this serve our national security or economic interests? El Salvador is the only Latin American country to send troops to Afghanistan. It is an increasingly important partner on counternarcotics and trade. Right now, more than 300 U.S. companies are operating on its soil. Bottom line: We are long overdue in bringing Ms. Aponte's nomination to a vote on the floor.

I have said before--and I repeat today--that the Senate should not hold Ms. Aponte hostage to the partisan infighting that has consumed our politics. It should allow her the right to a full appointment as Ambassador, given the commendable job she has already done in that capacity.

Let's review the facts because I think there has been some confusion here. Ms. Aponte has already received three high-level security clearances from national security experts in our government. Let me repeat. After three separate and thorough reviews, our national security experts gave Ms. Aponte the green light to represent our country.

We have been down this road many times. Senators have reviewed Ms. Aponte's FBI file for themselves. Along with the administration, I have sought repeatedly and in good faith to address the concerns of some of my colleagues. The administration even offered high-level briefings, but their offers were turned down. To continue addressing patently partisan concerns about her personal background, in my judgment, would be counterproductive.

So let's talk about her accomplishments. Ms. Aponte will bring intelligence, diligence, and broad experience to this important responsibility. Prior to serving as Ambassador, she was a practicing attorney for over 30 years. She has been a proud champion of Hispanics in the United States and is a highly respected leader within the Puerto Rican community on the mainland.

Ms. Aponte served a recess appointment as Ambassador to El Salvador until the end of the last congressional session. During her approximately 16-month tenure, Ms. Aponte served our country with distinction. She did a tremendous job negotiating an agreement with the Salvadoran Government to open a new bilateral initiative to fight transnational crime. She aggressively promoted initiatives to remove constraints on economic growth in El Salvador and brought together the U.S. and Salvadoran Governments to sign a comprehensive Partnership for Growth Joint Action Plan. These aren't small achievements.

But you don't need to take my word for it. Just ask the eight former Foreign Ministers from El Salvador who wrote to the Foreign Relations Committee in support of her nomination. Their position on Ms. Aponte is crystal clear:

Her endeavors are very valued in all segments of political, social and economic centers. There is no doubt that Ambassador Aponte will continue to find areas of common interest to build consensus not only between the United States and El Salvador, but will also continue to collaborate towards the strengthening of our institutions and will support the ongoing development process of our country.

I couldn't agree more.

Mr. President: Thomas Jefferson used to say that he could ``never fear that things will go far wrong where common sense has fair play.'' Ms. Aponte has already demonstrated that she was a superb Ambassador to El Salvador. She deserves to be sent back, where she will represent our country with distinction. All we need to do now is allow our narrow interests to yield to the national interest and give common sense fair play.

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