dominican-republic-flag_web.jpgDOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Gay diplomat
SANTO DOMINGO – Religious groups said they are outraged by the nomination of a gay diplomat, James “Wally” Brewster” as U.S. ambassador and are calling on the administration of President Danilo Medina to reject him.

“It’s an insult to good Dominican customs,” said the Rev. Cristobal Cardozo, leader of the Dominican Evangelical Fraternity. Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez, president of the Conference of the Dominican Episcopate, echoed similar sentiments. “You can expect anything from the U.S.,” said Lopez, who is also the archbishop of Santo Domingo. Local gay and lesbian activists condemned the outrage, saying the words of religious officials were filled with hate.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Daniel Foote said in a brief statement to reporters that Brewster was nominated because of his skills as an international businessman and his ideas on democracy and human rights. “Brewster arrives as an ambassador, he’s not coming here as an activist for the gay community,” Foote said. Nominating a gay man as ambassador should be viewed as normal, according to a statement by the umbrella nonprofit LGBT Collective.

Net crackdown
ST. GEORGE’S – Legislators approved a bill making it a crime to offend people through websites such as Facebook and Twitter. The measure was passed as part of an electronic crimes bill which also imposes penalties on other online activities including electronic stalking and identity theft. According to the bill, which is the first of its kind in the Caribbean, complaints about offensive comments would be filed with police. A judge would decide if the message was offensive. Those found guilty could be fined up to $37,000 or face three years in prison. The measure also makes it a crime to distribute child pornography, imposing fines of up to $111,000 and a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Water grant
PORT-AU-PRINCE – The Inter-American Development Bank is providing $35.5 million to improve drinking water services in the capital Port-au-Prince. The money will support a program created in 2010 with the help of the bank and the Spanish Cooperation Fund in Water and Sanitation in Latin American and the Caribbean. The program seeks to cut losses from leaks, clandestine connections and unpaid bills and to improve revenue to cover operational expenses. The country’s tattered water supply infrastructure has helped spread the waterborne disease cholera which, officials say, has killed thousands.

Warner bypassed
PORT-OF-SPAIN – Former world football powerbroker Jack Warner will not represent Trinidad’s United National Congress party in a by-election this month. He resigned as  security minister in April and as a parliamentarian shortly after a regional football group’s ethics panel accused him of enriching himself through alleged fraud. His parliamentary seat was declared vacant and a by-election was set for July 29. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has named Khadijah Ameen as her party’s candidate for the by-election.

Wage return
CHARLOTTE AMALIE – Senator Shawn-Michael Malone has said the full salaries of government employees will be reinstated following an eight percent reduction approved two years ago. He said legislators were able to balance the budget through other measures, including a three percent cut to all government agencies. Public workers filed a lawsuit to block the salary cut but a U.S. federal judge dismissed the case last year, saying the reductions were necessary and unavoidable. The U.S. territory is facing a nearly $24 million budget shortfall.