Mari Del Carmen Aponte’s nomination as President Clinton’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic had to be withdrawn in 1998 when the late Sen. Jesse Helms let it be known he had an intelligence memo examining her connections to Communist Cuba’s spy agency.
On Wednesday, after years of giving many thousands of dollars to Democratic Party candidates and causes, Aponte has been nominated as U.S. ambassador to El Salvador by President Obama, who said her “depth of experience … will be valuable to my administration as we work to bring about real change for the American people.”
Aponte is a lawyer and longtime friend of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who served on Bill Clinton’s White House transition team in 1993. A 1998 Insight Magazine article said, “while routinely monitoring Cuban intelligence officers at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, the FBI discovered that a member of President Clinton’s White House transition team may have been recruited as a spy for Fidel Castro.”
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According to the magazine, which folded last year, the FBI believed Aponte’s live-in boyfriend was an agent for Cuba’s Dirección General de Inteligencia or DGI. Later named as Roberto Tamayo, the magazine said the FBI discovered that he “introduced her to Cuban intelligence officers at the interests section. He allegedly gave her a ‘loan’ believed to have come from the Cuban secret service – a loan Aponte never repaid. When questioned by the FBI in 1994, Aponte refused to take a polygraph test.”
The confidential memo obtained by Helms was, according to Insight “written by an intelligence expert working overseas” and “alleged that Aponte was recruited as a ‘DGI asset.’” It said: “When the FBI eventually 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.”
The CIA refrained from objecting to Aponte’s relationship with Tamayo, according to the memo, because the Agency believed it could monitor her, and Insight reported that Aponte got top-secret clearance at the State Department “despite serious objections from career officials.”
According to a 1999 Miami Herald story, a Cuban spy named Florentino Aspillaga who defected to the U.S. in 1987 told Miami’s Diario las Americas newspaper in 1993 that Cuban spies were trying to recruit Aponte through Tamayo. A retired FBI counterintelligence agent claimed Tamayo was used by the FBI as a source. The Herald reported Aponte and Tamayo as having broken off their relationship in 1994.
“Whether or not there was ever a Cuban attempt to recruit Aponte remains unclear,” the paper concluded.
As Newsmax reported in a 2000 story on post-Cold War Communist spies living in the U.S., “Aponte raised money for the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign in the Latino community in 1996.” She has, in fact, been a superstar within left-wing Hispanic political circles, having been on the board of directors of the National Council of La Raza and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Aponte was executive director of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) while Sila Maria Calderon of the Popular Democratic Party was governor of the island – in effect a kind of political ambassador of Puerto Rico to the 50 states, promoting Calderon’s policies to federal, state, and local governments.
In the 1980s, she became the first woman national president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, and she is a member of the District of Columbia Judicial Nominations Commission. She served in President Jimmy Carter’s Department of Housing and Urban Development.
How could someone forced to pull out of an ambassadorial nomination because of questions regarding Communist espionage be nominated for another such appointment a decade later? Following the cash might lead to an answer. Aponte has given a fortune to Democrats since her nomination crashed 11 years ago.
Identified variously in Federal Election Commission records as “Maria,” “Marie,” “Mary” and “Maricarmen,” the FEC website shows contributions that include $4,000 in 2006 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which supports House candidates, another $500 to the DCCC in 2008, and $750 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2009.
Other listings show $1,000 in 2001 to the current chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and $400 in 2007 to Sen. Byron Dorgan, the chairman of the Senate’s Democratic Policy Committee. There are also thousands of dollars in campaign cash to the current chairman of the Democratic Party in Puerto Rico, Roberto Prats, who this year was elected to the executive committee of the Democratic National Committee.
FEC records also show thousands given to the Latina Roundtable PAC and no less than $6,000 in 2008 to the PODER PAC, whose stated purpose is to support “Democratic, pro-choice Latinas with a demonstrated commitment to the Latino community and a viable campaign organization.”
Was that enough money to make President Obama and the Democratic Party forget Aponte’s Fidel Castro connection? Have Democratic senators, who may have to stick their necks out to get her confirmed, had their palms sufficiently greased?
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