The gay U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic has sharply criticized comments the country’s tourism minister made against LGBT tourists.
El Caribe, a Dominican newspaper, reported James “Wally” Brewster during an interview on Tuesday “deplored” what the publication described as Tourism Minister Francisco García’s assertion that the country “is not interested in exploiting the potential of the said market.”
“When the official that is the head, the boss of the Dominican government, says that he does not want a certain group of people, it puts us in a difficult situation in terms of supporting tourist activity in this country,” Brewster told El Caribe.
A source in the Dominican Republic told the Washington Blade that García made them on Tuesday in a statement he released.
EFE, a Spanish news agency, on Wednesday reported that García criticized Brewster’s comments.
“We very much regret these declarations of Ambassador Brewster, someone who we respect,” said García, according to EFE. “Nobody can accuse us of discriminating against any tourist group.”
The Dominican Ministry of Tourism did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment.
Ambassador’s husband defends LGBT tourism campaign
García’s comments come less than a month after the Blade reported that a Dominican advocacy group is working with government officials and travel industry representatives on a campaign designed to promote LGBT tourism and gay rights in the Caribbean country.
Members of the Center for Integrated Training and Research, an organization that has fought the AIDS epidemic in the country and throughout the Caribbean for more than two decades, on Feb. 2 met with representatives of the Dominican Ministry of Tourism and Tourism Police at a hotel in Santo Domingo, the country’s capital. Representatives from the Dominican travel industry and Brewster’s husband, Bob Satawake, are among those who also attended the gathering.
Religious groups have sharply criticized the campaign, with one accusing the Dominican government of adopting “an official policy to sell the Dominican Republic as an LGBT paradise” during a recent interview with a local television station.
Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo in 2010 described a park in the capital’s Colonial City in which LGBT Dominicans gather at night as “a space where all types of insolences and vulgarities abound.” López during a 2013 press conference described Brewster as a “faggot” after President Obama nominated him with the apparent approval of Dominican President Danilo Medina.
Satawake on Wednesday defended the LGBT tourism campaign that is scheduled to formally launch in May.
“I am hopeful this program will lead to the expansion of the entire tourism sectors between our two nations and continues to promote and grow our strong trade alliance through tourism,” he told the Blade.