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U.S. ambassador fuels gay rights debate in El Salvador

July 18, 2011

An editorial by the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, promoting gay rights, has set off a debate between “pro-family” activists and gay rights groups in El Salvador.

U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Mari Carmen Aponte published a letter in the La Prensa Grafica newspaper on June 28, strongly supporting the rights of lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgenders in El Salvador. The article received strong backlash from conservative Salvadorans.

“We have seen some arguments back and forth between different groups in the country after the article’s publication, however our position remains the same,” said Robert McInturff, a representative from the U.S. embassy in El Salvador. “The editorial speaks for itself.”

Almost two dozen self-described “pro-family” organizations in El Salvador responded with their own editorial, accusing Aponte of trying to force an agenda that doesn’t mix with the country’s Christian beliefs. The groups also sent a letter of protest to the U.S. senate, asking for Aponte to be removed from her position.

Aponte was appointed to her current position by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2010 during a congressional recess. She drew heavily from Obama’s agenda in her editorial and quoted U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying, “Gay rights are human rights” in the editorial. In addition, she called for an end to discrimination against members of the gay community in the workplace.

Her letter references a United Nations declaration from March 2010 to eliminate violence directed against the LGBT community. During a meeting of the UN Council of Human Rights, 83 countries including the United States and El Salvador signed a declaration to eliminate violence directed against the LGBT community. In May of 2010, El Salvadorian president Mauricio Funes signed decree 56, which prohibits the Salvadorian government from discriminating against people based on their sexual preference.

Despite the political agreements to stem negative sentiments against the LGBT community, a coalition of some 22 human rights groups and pro-family organizations in El Salvador have accused Aponte of seeking to impose a homosexual political agenda on a heavily Christian country.

The coalition responded to Aponte’s letter with its own publication in El Diaro de Hoy. The letter states the ambassador is ignoring one of the first rules of diplomacy, respecting the culture and customs of the country you are in.

“Mrs. Aponte, in clear violation of the rules of diplomacy and international law, you seek to impose on Salvadorans, belittling our fundamentally Christian values, rooted in the natural law, a new vision of foreign values, totally alien to our way of thinking, disguising them as supposed human rights,” the coalition wrote on July 7, 2011.

Aponte’s post as ambassador to El Salvador has never been approved by the U.S. Senate due to ongoing allegations about her suspected association with suspected Cuban intelligence agents during the 1980s and 1990s.

Aponte’s appointment was given the green light after an investigation by the FBI yielded no suspicious activity. However, her position has yet to be officially confirmed.

Aponte’s letter:

http://www.laprensagrafica.com/opinion/editorial/201657-por-la-eliminacion-de-prejuicios-dondequiera-que-existan.html

Response by coalition:

http://www.elsalvador.com/mwedh/epaper/20110706/EDH20110706NAC025P.PDF

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