- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

APONTE BLOCKED

Mari Carmen Aponte will be cleaning out her desk and preparing to return to the United States by the end of the month because Senate Republicans - suspicious of her past ties to a suspected Cuban spy and angered by her support for gay issues - stopped her from continuing to serve as the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador.

The White House reacted angrily to the Republican filibuster of a key Democratic Hispanic activist. Spokesman Jay Carney accused Republicans of “political posturing.”

Sen. Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who led the opposition to her nomination, repeatedly had raised questions about her response to charges that she once dated a suspected Cuban spy and that Cuban intelligence agents had tried to recruit her.

He also objected to her promotion of the gay agenda in an El Salvador newspaper while she was serving in her temporary post as ambassador to the predominately conservative Roman Catholic nation.

After encountering Republican objections, President Obama last year bypassed the normal Senate confirmation process and named her ambassador in a congressional recess appointment that is due to expire Dec. 31.

Miss Aponte earlier had faced Republican opposition in 1998, when President Bill Clinton nominated her to serve as ambassador to the Dominican Republic. She withdrew her name after Republicans said they would question her about her relationship with a former boyfriend, Roberto Tamayo, a Cuban-American suspected of spying for Cuba. That’s when reports surfaced that Cuban diplomats had tried to recruit her as a spy.

The FBI later cleared her of those allegations, but Mr. DeMint and other Republicans complained that the White House refused to let them review the record of the FBI investigations.

“The Senate cannot in good faith confirm a nominee who has repeatedly refused to answer simple, necessary questions related to her past,” Mr. DeMint said before the Senate vote Monday.

He also criticized her for the newspaper article that was “hostile to the culture” of El Salvador and “inflamed tensions” among a “large number of community and pro-life groups” in the Central American nation.

Her nomination failed on a vote of 49-37, as Democrats failed to win the necessary 60 votes to break the Republican filibuster.

‘A GODDESS’ IN BELGIUM

A diminutive African-born nurse who saved hundreds of American soldiers during a key battle in World War II received a U.S. medal for valor this week at a ceremony in Brussels.

U.S. Ambassador Howard Gutman praised 93-year-old Augusta Chiwy as he presented her with the Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service for her invaluable medical aid to the lone U.S. Army doctor treating thousands of wounded soldiers at the siege of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.

“She helped, she helped and she helped,” Mr. Gutman said during a ceremony Monday at a military museum in Brussels.

The ambassador said the United States was 67 years late in presenting her with the award because officials thought she had been killed in a German bombing of the hospital where she worked. Another Belgian nurse was killed during the siege.

U.S. forces, led by paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division, had held the strategic town for seven days when Gen. George Patton’s Third Army rescued them. The Germans needed to control the crossroads town to advance toward the key Belgium port of Antwerp.

Col. J.P. McGee, commander of a brigade of the 101st Airborne, attended the ceremony and praised Mrs. Chiwy as a “goddess.”

“Men lived and families were united due to your efforts,” he told her.

Mrs. Chiwy, who was born in the Belgian Congo and later married a Belgian soldier, braved enemy fire as she rushed about the town to treat wounded soldiers.

British historian Martin King recently tracked her down after hearing stories of the exploits of a black nurse at Bastogne.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.