New Ambassadors Saying Hello: Poland, DR, Luxembourg, Argentina, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Rwanda, Lesotho

 

POLAND | Mosbacher, Georgette Paulsin – Republic of Poland – February 2018 

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC | Bernstein, Robin S – Dominican Republic – November 2017 

LUXEMBOURG | Evans, James Randolph – Grand Duchy of Luxembourg – November 2017 

ARGENTINA | Prado, Edward Charles – Argentine Republic – February 2018 

ZIMBABWE | Nichols, Brian A. – Republic of Zimbabwe – June 2018  

GABON | Danies, Joel – Gabonese Republic and Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe – November 2017 

RWANDA | Vrooman, Peter Vrooman – Republic of Rwanda – October 2017 

LESOTHO | Gonzales, Rebecca Eliza – Kingdom of Lesotho – September 2017 

 

#

Advertisements

US Embassy Santo Domingo: Man Pleads Guilty to One Count of Bribery of a Public Official

On September 14, USDOJ announced that Luis Santos of New Jersey pleaded guilty to bribing a State Department employee.  Santos admitted to paying $2,381 to a U.S. Consular Adjudicator at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo.

Bergen County, New Jersey, Man Admits Bribing State Department Employee

TRENTON, N.J. – A Bergen County, New Jersey, man today admitted giving a bribe to an employee of the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Luis Santos, 37, of Teaneck, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp in Trenton federal court to an information charging him with one count of bribery of a public official.

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

Santos paid $2,381 to a U.S. Consular Adjudicator in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to favorably handle and review non-immigrant visas, which allowed individuals from the Dominican Republic to apply for entry into the United States.

The bribery charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 18, 2018.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S Department of State Diplomatic Security Service with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen D. Stringer of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.

Defense counsel: Thomas Ambrosio Esq., Lyndhurst, New Jersey

*

Based on court filings (PDF), a cooperating witness (“CW”) was employed by the State Department as a U.S Consular Adjudicator in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

2. From on or about September 22, 2017 to on or about March 9, 2018, SANTOS contacted the CW via WhatsApp and solicited the CW to participate in a bribery and fraud scheme, whereby SANTOS would pay money to the CW in exchange for the CW favorably handling and adjudicating fraudulent NIVs.

3. Throughout in or about February 2018, SANTOS sent the CW, via WhatsApp messaging, the names and appointment confirmations for five NIV Applicants, all of whom had interviews scheduled with the U.S. Consulate in Santo Domingo in or about March 2018 ( collectively, the “March Applicants”). SANTOS offered to pay the CW $500 for each fraudulent NIV issued to one of the March Applicants.

4. On or about February 25, 2018, SANTOS and the CW met in Hoboken, New Jersey (the “Hoboken Meeting”). During that meeting, which was consensually recorded by law enforcement, SANTOS confirmed that the March Applicants would pay $1,000 each for their fraudulent NIVs, and that the money would be split three ways, with a portion going to the CW in exchange for the CW favorably reviewing and adjudicating the five NIVs.

5. Law enforcement arranged for the issuance of what appeared to be genuine visas for the March Applicants. Accordingly, when each of the March Applicants appeared for their respective interviews, they were informed that their applications had been approved.

6. On or about March 9, 2018, SANTOS caused a relative in the Dominican Republic to wire $2,380.95 ($2,500 less the transfer service processing fee) to the CW via a money transferring service in exchange for the approval of NIVs for the five March Applicants.

#

Founding Member of Mar-a-Lago Club Robin Bernstein to be U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic

Posted: 4:23 am ET
Follow @Diplopundit

 

On October 31, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Robin Bernstein, a founding member of The Mar-a-Lago Club  to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. The WH released the following brief bio:

Robin Bernstein to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Dominican Republic.  Ms. Bernstein has served as President and Director of Richard S. Bernstein and Associates, Inc. since 2004, and Vice President and Director of Rizbur, Inc. since 2002, both of West Palm Beach, Florida.  For four decades, she has provided leadership and management to the business, government, and the non-profit communities of Florida.  Currently, she is co-founder of Palm Beach Country Cares, a Florida relief effort for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Ms. Bernstein earned a B.A. from American University School of International Service and an M.B.A. from George Washington University.  She speaks French and basic Spanish.

This nomination has the potential to be the more contentious of the Trump ambassador nominations due to her association with Mar-a-Lago, but also because she was one of Trump’s 2016 Presidential Electors.

But hey, it’s the U.S. Senate where its “advice and consent” role often constitutes a light touch — just a few public questions, and whether or not the nominee has previously visited the country. In some of these public hearings, they have four-five nominees for an hour or so, most of that taken up by the prepared testimonies of the nominees, the senators listening to themselves talk, and then a few questions for the nominees. If a nominee is in a panel with a controversial individual, the nominee might get just a question or two. If the nominee is the controversial one, or in the crosshairs of one or two of the senators, then the nominee might get most of the questions. Sometimes though, when a nominee comes unprepared, it blows up the house, and a normally inattentive public reacts in unexpected ways. But that does not happen often.

We must admit, however, that we suffer from low expectations when it comes to these confirmations. Since singing in a church choir, and being spouse of an ex-politician are deemed relevant qualifications for an ambassador, the bar for the Senate is low. Other than making a real spectacle of yourself in front of the cameras, like trampling through the salad bowl with no dressing, most political nominees get handed the keys to embassies after their quick confirmation hearings. Not unique to this administration, we should add, but USA Today, notes that “never in modern history has a president awarded government posts to people who pay money to his own companies.” So we’ll have to watch what happens with Corker and Flake who sits in the SFRC, and if McCain shows up for the hearing.

#

U.S. Embassy Bahamas Now on ‘Ordered Departure’ For “Non-Essential” Staff/Family Members #Irma

Posted: 3:36 pm PT
Updated: 8:08 pm PT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’]

 

Following the ‘authorized departure’ orders for the U.S. Embassies in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, the State Department has now placed the “non-essential” personnel and family members of the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, The Bahamas on ‘ordered departure.’ That is mandatory evacuation for those considered non-emergency personnel and family members.  We understand that “non-emergency” is the preferred term but it looks like the “non-essential” terminology is still in use by the State Department.

The Department of State recommends U.S. citizens avoid all travel to The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands due to Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm. On September 6, the Department ordered the departure of non-essential U.S. government employees and their family members due to Hurricane Irma.

A Hurricane Warning has been issued for Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas. A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the Central Bahamas. Storm conditions are expected to reach the southern Bahamas by September 7 and Nassau by September 8. U.S. citizens residing and traveling in coastal areas in this region should be alert to flooding.

We recommend U.S. citizens depart The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands if possible and work with commercial air carriers to leave prior to the arrival of the hurricane. Airports will close once conditions deteriorate and safe travel will not be possible, expected sometime on September 8. We recommend those citizens who are unable to depart to shelter in place in a secure location.

Travelers should apprise family and friends in the United States of their whereabouts, and keep in close contact with their tour operator, hotel staff, and local officials for evacuation instructions. Travelers should also protect their travel and identity documents against loss or damage, as the need to replace lost documentation could hamper or delay return to the United States.

Read in full here.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic, approved for “authorized departure” yesterday has a charter flight departing Santo Domingo today.

Seats remain available for U.S. citizens wishing to depart from Santo Domingo. A charter flight will depart from Aeropuerto Las Americas in Santo Domingo mid-afternoon on September 6th. American citizens wishing to travel on this flight must contact the embassy at SDOAmericans@state.gov. Seats will be available on a first come, first served basis, but all passengers are required to meet certain conditions.

Read more here.

The US Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica on its Security Message notes that Category 5 Hurricane Irma is affecting the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean but said that while there are currently no coastal watches or warnings in effect for Jamaica or the Cayman Islands, the National Hurricane Center forecasts that Irma will remain a powerful storm throughout the week.

#

Embassy Dominican Republic Now on ‘Authorized Departure’ For Employees/Family Members #Irma

Posted: 1:14 am ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’]

 

The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo is now also on authorized departure status:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully reconsider travel to the Dominican Republic due to Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm projected to impact the Dominican Republic. This storm may bring significant rainfall and wind that may result in life-threating flooding, flash flooding, mudslides, and storm surge.  Disruptions to travel and services are likely throughout the country, particularly in eastern and northern regions.  On September 5, the Department authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. government employees and their family members due to Hurricane Irma. 

Read the full Travel Warning here.

On September 4, the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo issued a reminder to U.S. citizens in the Dominican Republic “to remain vigilant during the hurricane season.  At this time, Hurricane Irma is forecast to impact the entirety of the Dominican Republic to varying degrees with eastern and northern areas most heavily impacted, by Wednesday, September 6.”

On September 5, U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo issued an Emergency Message advising U.S. citizens residing and traveling in the Dominican Republic that Hurricane Irma, “currently a category 5 storm, is projected to affect the Dominican Republic.” Also: “This storm may bring significant rainfall and wind that may result in life-threatening flooding, flash flooding, and storm surge, and Hispaniola-wide impacts are likely.  The National Hurricane Center (NHC) and local authorities are monitoring the progress of the storm, and the Embassy will issue updated messages as needed. Travelers and residents wishing to depart before the arrival of the storm should contact their airlines or tour operators and keep their families informed of their welfare and whereabouts.”  No “authorized departure” for employees/family members is noted in the Emergency Message (see U.S. Embassy Haiti Now on ‘Authorized Departure’ For Non-Emergency Staff/Family Members Due to Hurricane Irma).

#

Snapshot: U.S. Deportations to Top Receiving Countries: FY2013-FY2015

Posted: 12:03 am ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

Extracted from CRS RL34112 | August 2016 — via Secrecy News

Via CRS

Via CRS

 

 

Presidential Delegation to the Dominican Republic For President Medina’s Inauguration

Posted: 3:12 am ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

President Obama designated Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez as lead in the Presidential Delegation to the Dominican Republic to attend the inauguration of  President Danilo Medina on August 16, 2016 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  The other members of the delegation include, Ambassador James W. Brewster Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, and AA/S Mari Carmen Aponte, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Hoy la delegación encabezada por el Secretario de Trabajo de los Estados Unidos, Tomás Pérez, también conformada por la secretaria de Estado adjunta para Latinoamérica, Mari Carmen Aponte y por el Embajador James W. Brewster, está en la #JuramentaciónDanilo2016 en representación del Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América, Barack Obama. (Via FB)

Hoy la delegación encabezada por el Secretario de Trabajo de los Estados Unidos, Tomás Pérez, también conformada por la secretaria de Estado adjunta para Latinoamérica, Mari Carmen Aponte y por el Embajador James W. Brewster, está en la #JuramentaciónDanilo2016 en representación del Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América, Barack Obama. (Via FB)

 

#

Pres. Obama’s Personal Representative Faces Anti-Gay Bigotry in the Dominican Republic

Posted: 5:02 am ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

The NYT piece below notes that “the administration of President Danilo Medina, by remaining silent on the controversy, creates the impression that the government condones bigotry. That is a big mistake for a country that depends heavily on trade and tourism from the United States.”

In fact, Americans comprised the majority of the five million tourists who flocked to DR hotels and resorts in 2014, a figure that the Government of the Dominican Republic (GoDR) has vowed to double within 10 years according to export.gov. Ambassador Wally Brewster officially represents the United States of America, the Dominican Republic’s main trading partner, with $12.5 billion in total trade.

Beyond these, here’s something that the GoDR might want to think about while it is officially keeping its silence — Ambassador Brewster is President Obama’s personal representative to the Dominican Republic, and expected to reflect the views of this President and of this administration, including on the international initiatives to advance the human rights of LGBT persons. In short, Ambassador Brewster is not/not freelancing.  And based on President Obama’s memo, the ambassador is not/not on a secret crusade to “convert Santo Domingo into the Caribbean’s gay paradise.”

 

 

Related posts:

 

WH Petition: Latest Attack Against Wally Brewster, the US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic

Posted: 1:58 pm EDT
Updated: 5:16 pm EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

An anonymous petition currently posted at the White House We The People portal is asking the Obama Administration “to remove the U.S. ambassador in the Dominican Republic, James W. Brewster for primarily promoting in his official duties an LGBT agenda inconsistent with the Christian cultural values and tradition of the Dominican Republic.” The petition has  above 25,000 signatures as of last night and needs over 74,000 by April 7, 2016 to reach the petition threshold which would then require an official response from the White House.

Screen Shot

And here is a counter petition supporting the ambassador.

Screen Shot

Maybe the White House can officially respond with this video:

The removal petition is just the latest in a series of attacks that Ambassador Brewster has faced since he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 2013.  After his nomination was announced, the AP reported that religious groups in the country said they are outraged by the nomination of a gay U.S. ambassador to the conservative Caribbean country.  DR Bishop Pablo Cedano was quoted in the media saying that if Brewster becomes the U.S. ambassador, “he is going to suffer and will have to leave.

After Ambassador Brewster’s arrival in country, a diplomatic event in honor of Dominican Republic president Danilo Medina was cancelled.  Ambassador Brewster’s husband was reportedly not invited to that event because he was not considered a “wife.” Consequently, several diplomats reportedly refused to attend and the event had to be “suspended.” (See Meanwhile in Santo Domingo: Ambassador Brewster’s Husband Not Invited ‘Cuz He’s Not a “Wife”).

This week, the Washington Blade reports:  Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo has repeatedly used anti-gay slurs to describe Brewster. A group of Dominican intellectuals and religious leaders in January urged President Danilo Medina and the Dominican Ministry of Foreign Affairs to declare the out U.S. ambassador as “persona non grata” because of a U.S.-backed initiative they contend seeks “to turn our adolescents gay.”

Yesterday, Senator  Dick Durbin (D-IL) tweeted his support saying Ambassador Brewster is “doing exceptional work under difficult circumstances.”  U.S. Ambassador to Chile Mike Hammer also tweeted his support:

Previously in January:

Last December:

Last year, Senator Durbin also wrote and appealed to the Pope about the hostile public remarks against Ambassador Brewster made by Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo:

Ambassador Brewster is from my state of Illinois and he is a personal friend.  I supported President Obama’s selection of Ambassador Brewster and he was sworn into his position in my Senate office.  Ambassador Brewster is gay and was married under the laws of the United States to his partner, Bob Satawake.

Even before Ambassador Brewster’s arrival in Santo Domingo in 2013, Cardinal Rodriguez launched a personal attack against him with public statements quoted in the popular press.  The Cardinal used the hateful slur “faggot,” which he continues to use to this day.  In a recent interview Cardinal Rodriguez again described the Ambassador as a “faggot” and falsely claimed the Ambassador was setting out to promote “faggotry” in the Dominican Republic.  The Cardinal described the Ambassador as a “wife” who “should stick to housework.”
[…]
The Church’s teachings on gay marriage are well known but the Church also teaches us to show tolerance for those with different sexual orientations.  The intolerant public statements of Cardinal Rodriguez are inconsistent with that clearly stated value.

Since your selection as Pope, you have shared a message of compassion, tolerance, and love.  I remember distinctly when you spoke to us at the joint session of Congress in September and reminded us of our responsibility to “defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good.”

This can’t be easy for Ambassador Brewster, his husband or the mission.

These persistent attacks are hard to watch but imagine what it must be like for LGBT members in DR and in many parts of the world.

A Dominican LGBT rights advocate told the Blade, “This is only a reflection of the homophobia that continues to exist in this country,” Ramírez told the Blade. “If this is what the ambassador of the United States is facing, you can only imagine what common GLBT people who don’t have a political agenda are up against.” 

#

 

560 Ex-Peace Corps Volunteers Write to Secretary Kerry Urging Suspension of Aid to Dominican Republic

Posted: 3:08 am EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

Nearly 600 former Peace Corps volunteers and three PC country directors who served in the Dominican Republic wrote an open letter to Secretary Kerry urging the suspension of aid to the Dominican Republic due to its treatment of Dominicans of Haitian descent:

It is due to our deep and abiding concern for the most vulnerable members of Dominican society that we are writing to you about the crisis of statelessness among Dominicans of Haitian descent. We urge you to end U.S. involvement in the violation of their human rights: enforce the Leahy Amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act and annual Department of Defense appropriations.

The Leahy laws state that no U.S. assistance shall be furnished to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if there is credible information that such a unit has committed a gross violation of human rights. Given the Dominican government’s disregard for international law with respect to the status of its citizens of Haitian descent; the violent track record of Dominican security forces receiving funding and training from the United States; and the Dominican Armed Forces’ readiness to execute a potentially massive campaign of rights-violating expulsions, we ask that the United States suspend its military aid to the Dominican government.

In 2013, the Dominican Constitutional Court i​ssued a ruling (168-13) that effectively stripped hundreds of thousands of people, primarily those of Haitian descent, of their Dominican citizenship. This ruling stands in direct contravention of international human rights law—specifically the A​merican Convention on Human Rights,​which the Dominican government r​atified in 1978. This convention enshrines the right to a nationality and prohibits its arbitrary deprivation. Many Dominicans of Haitian ancestry, including those whose families have resided in the

Dominican Republic for generations, were rendered stateless and face forcible deportation to a country where many have no ties whatsoever. A subsequent Dominican law (1​69-14)​, which addressed the court’s ruling, further entrenched the negation of the right to citizenship on the basis of one’s place of birth, and retroactively conferred citizenship on the basis of the immigration status of one’s parents.

The volunteers’ letter specifically cites the security forces that “appear poised to carry out mass deportations within the country, including the U​.S.-trained border patrol agency, CESFRONT, which has r​eceived more than $17.5 million in assistance from the United States since 2013.”

“If the United States is serious about protecting universally recognized human rights, we must no longer abet such actions in the Dominican Republic, much less be complicit in an impending intensification of human rights abuses. In our view, it appears impossible for the Dominican government to move forward with the implementation of its human rights-violating, internationally condemned citizenship laws without involving its security forces in yet more widespread and severe abuses.”

A small group representing the volunteers has requested a meeting with Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson.

.

.

.

.

.

#