WASHINGTON – Mari Carmen Aponte, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador since 2012, will take over for Roberta Jacobson as assistant secretary of state for Latin America, the State Department announced Thursday.
State Department deputy spokesman said that Aponte will “immediately” assume her duties regarding U.S. relations with Latin American nations, given that her nomination will not need Senate approval.
At a press conference, Toner noted that Aponte, who was born in Puerto Rico, has a long and distinguished diplomatic career and was a successful businesswoman and attorney.
Aponte, as ambassador to El Salvador, made it a priority to expand crime prevention and economic growth and to move toward greater democracy, sustainable development and respect for human rights, the State Department said in its statement.
Her appointment is unusual, given that she will move to her new post without needing Senate confirmation and, thus, technically she could serve in an interim capacity until January 2017, when President Barack Obama’s term ends.
The new assistant secretary of state is very familiar with the difficulties associated with getting legislative confirmation, having been nominated by Obama to be U.S. envoy to the Organization of American States in July 2014 but never being confirmed by the Senate, which since the autumn of that year has had a Republican majority.
Aponte in 2012 became the first Puerto Rican woman to represent the United States as an ambassador.
Jacobson, who was confirmed in late April as the new U.S. envoy to Mexico, was the person in charge of U.S. diplomacy in Latin America starting in 2012 and, during her term, she forged alliances to fight drug trafficking and crime and formalized the historic restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba.