August 20th, 2010, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson today condemned Barack Obama’s recess appointment of Mari Del Carmen Aponte for the post of Ambassador to El Salvador, citing “unanswered questions” about Aponte’s romantic relationship with a Cuban spy, Roberto Tamayo.
“Because Aponte refused to submit to a polygraph test, the American people still have not received a full, public accounting of the extent of Aponte’s relationship with Tamayo. Instead, all they have received are vague assurances from Senators who claim to have seen the FBI records regarding Aponte and Tamayo,” Wilson said.
“Is Aponte a loyalty risk or not? Barack Obama’s recess appointment has sidestepped the constitutional Senate confirmation process to avoid having this question answered, leaving it open to interpretation by both the American people and foreign states,” Wilson explained, adding, “Without a full accounting, the American people must assume the worst.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), had defended Aponte after he said he had seen some of the FBI’s materials on Aponte and Tamayo. Wilson said that was “not good enough.”
Wilson said the context of her 1986-94 live-in relationship with a Cuban Intelligence Service agent was “troubling, to say the least,” noting that during that period, Cuba, the then-Soviet Union, and Nicaragua were fighting a proxy war in El Salvador against the U.S.-backed government there.
“Aponte has been named ambassador of the very country that her friends in the Cuban government attempted to take over,” Wilson said.
In 1993, Florentino Aspillaga, a Cuban Interior Ministry intelligence agent, who defected in 1987, said that Cuban spies were trying to recruit Aponte through Tamayo.
An Insight on the News story detailed Aponte’s alleged recruitment by the Cuban spy agency, including receiving a loan which was never paid back that originated from Cuban sources. According to the a confidential intelligence memo delivered to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms and obtained by Insight, “When the FBI questioned her about her involvement with Cuban intelligence, she reportedly refused to cooperate, saying that since she was not seeking a permanent White House position she was not subject to a background check.”
After she failed to take a lie detector test in 1994, Aponte withdrew herself from consideration of Ambassador to the Dominican Republic after committee questions about her suitability continued.
According to a Washington Post article published prior to the appointment, “Republicans want access to all FBI’s records on the relationship. The FBI interviewed both Aponte and Tamayo about the matter back in 1993, but Aponte declined to take a lie-detector test. Citing ‘personal reasons,’ she withdrew from consideration to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998 after then-Sen. Jesse Helms promised to ask invasive questions about the relationship at her hearing.”
Senator Jim DeMint said in an interview with The Cable that “The allegations were apparently serious enough for her to withdraw her nomination in 1998, so I think it’s fair to ask some questions.”
In a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Wilson had written to Senators, “Aponte’s nomination is permanently tainted by her 1990’s close, personal relationship with a man whom U.S. counterintelligence considered a Cuban DGI agent, according to a confidential intelligence memo that was obtained by Insight magazine.”
The letter continues, “Aponte’s failure to cooperate with a 1994 FBI investigation into the allegations, and her refusal to participate in a polygraph test after some of the answers to FBI questions showed minor inconsistencies serve as automatic disqualifiers for this nominee.”
Aponte had cleared the committee in a party line vote which sent her nomination to the floor of the Senate until Obama settled the issue with his recess appointment.
Wilson said that, “this is not over. It will be fair for Senators to still ask questions of Aponte now that she has been appointed, and it will be fair to closely examine Obama’s Central American policy that emerges as a result.”
Wilson concluded, “The American people have a right to know if one of their ambassadors has been compromised by enemy intelligence agents. There are certainly indications to that effect. Why would Barack Obama appoint somebody with such a troubling background? Why would he appoint somebody with ties to a regime that is the sworn enemy of the U.S.?”
Letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 13th, 2010
“Aponte: A Loyalty Risk for Ambassador?”, Richard McCarty for ALG News, March 8th, 2010
ALG Nominee Alert, Mari Del Carmen Aponte, March 2010.