Puerto Rican native Mari Carmen Aponte has been nominated as the United States Ambassador to Panama.
Aponte was Ambassador to El Salvador twice between 2010 to 2016. She was also acting assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere for the U.S. Department of State under President Barack Obama, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, and a White House fellow under President Jimmy Carter.
Aponte has held leadership positions in the National Council of La Raza, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia, and the Hispanic National Bar Association.
Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Mari Carmen Aponte was educated at Villanova University and Temple University School of Law. She served on the Board of Directors of Oriental Financial Group in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and practiced law in Puerto Rico and in Washington, D.C. She has most recently been working as a consultant.
Aponte’s nomination must be approved by the Senate. A simple majority is all that is required.
Panama and the United States
Panama declared independence from Columbia in 1903 and soon gave the United States control over the Canal Zone, where the U.S. built and administered the Panama Canal. Originally, this concession was “in perpetuity,” but violent unrest in Panama led to a renegotiation of the relationship.
On December 31, 1999, the Canal Zone returned to the control of Panama. The United States continues to be Panama’s most important trade partner.
Ambassador from Puerto Rico
Aponte is not the first Puerto Rican ambassador. Carmen G. Cantor, born in Mayaguez, is the U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The FSM has a pact of Free Association with the United States.
Freely associated states are independent sovereign nations, with an agreement of free association with the United States. This is why there is an ambassador to the FSM.