Local March 7, 2016 | 11:08 am

Gay US envoy’s 2 years of headlines in the Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo.- James "Wally" Brewster’s firsttwo years as US ambassador have been fraught with controversy, expressions andactions which have drawn headlines on numerous occasions.

Newspaper El Dia on Monday reports that the first thingthat scandalized Dominicans was that he was a leader of the civil rights of theLGBT movement (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), which sparked rejectionacross the country, mostly Catholic and Evangelical churches.

“That was followed by his marriage to his partner ofseveral years, Bob J. Satawake, just hours after being worn in as US envoy byUS Vice President Joe Biden.”

Daniel Foote, US Embassy chief of staff at the time ?said Brewsterdidn’t come to the country as an for gay rights activist, the story has beendifferent.

Brewster celebrated "gay pride month" on June2014 and immediately reiterated his commitment to promote equality for the LGBTcommunity and called on all nations to unite in the defense of that group’s universalhuman rights.

As part of his gay activism the diplomat launched DominicanRepublic’s first LGBT Chamber of Commerce last week as part of the FourthSummit of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of the United States(NGLCC-LGBT).

“The presentation of this entity was the setting for thedirector (Alexandria Panehal) of the International Cooperation Agency of USA’s(USAID) announcement that her government will allocate one million dollars topromote activities of the gay community in the country.”

Visa threat

“The actions of the US ambassador has not only generatedcontroversy because of his sexual preference, but also for his reactions aroundcriticism and comments.”

He was the center of a controversy when he tried topressure the president of the Central Electoral Board, Roberto Rosario, ameeting in which he finally stated that the issuing of Dominican identity documentsbe more flexible for people that Dominican legislation indicates don’t qualify.

Even critics of the Constitutional Court ruling thatclarifies the criteria for granting Dominican nationality reported thatBrewster had hinted the possibility of canceling Rosario’s visa.

“The meeting took place in a tense atmosphere and Rosario’ssubsequent reaction was to condition any future meeting to be channeled throughthe Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

Threat to cancel visas

But the brouhaha over cancelling or returning visas sparkedby the diplomat’s statement isn’t new.

Last November, Brewster suggested that those "whocriticize the US embassy and his own person should hand in their visa."

“That statement was made in front of dozens of businessleaders who attended a luncheon of the American Chamber of Commerce, a scenariothat the US representative also used to criticize the levels of corruption inthe Dominican Republic.”

At that time, Brewster denied that his actions andconsiderations violate Dominican sovereignty and noted that "fewpoliticians have been criticizing the embassy and myself for being too involvedin Dominican affairs."

He said strong investment and close ties that bind theUnited States with the Dominican Republic gives him that right.

‘Punished’ leading newspaper

Last year the US embassy barred thhe entry to journalistsof leading newspaper Diario Libre who went to the Ambassador’s residence tocover an activity with Dominican major league baseball s players.

Diario Libre editor-in-chief Adriano Miguel Tejada said theaction was reprisal for his outlet having published a photo uploaded to Facebookby Satawake, in which a group of men posing in the embassy pool in celebrationof gay pride month.

Visit to schools

Another round of criticism came after Brewster introduced Satawakeas his partner to a group of elementary school students during a visit to Santiago.

The diplomatic couple will likely face additional criticismafter Brewster and Satawake recently aired a video in which they affirm thatdespite their travels around the globe, “We always return to the beautiful DominicanRepublic.”

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