Was in the park on a lazy Sunday afternoon. And saw all of these people changing into white t-shirts. They were there to help a friend to propose. And just as their friend proposes, a militray band starts playing. I don't know if they were a part of the surprise. They could've been there because tomorrow is Juan Pablo Duarte Day, another holiday.
I got an email saying that people were making reservations at the Hotel Roma II, and when they arrived they were charged 18% tax. I sent an email to the hotel and received a reply stating yes, they now charge the 18% tax. Make sure to add 18% tax to the advertised prices. And check with other hotels when making reservations to confirm whether the tax is added into the price quote.
President Obama's administration said this morning that the new set of U.S.-Cuba travel regulations, first announced last month as part of a return to normal diplomatic relations with the island nation, will take effect on Friday. As part of those changes, it will be easier for Americans to travel to Cuba than is has been for more than 50 years. But it won't be as simple as booking a flight. Here's a quick rundown of who exactly will be able to visit Cuba, and under what circumstances:
For starters, these changes will not allow official tourist travel to Cuba. Senior administration officials clarified in a conference call this morning that the new regulations "are not meant to facilitate tourist travel to Cuba, as tourist travel remains prohibited by statute." In other words, headlines that have run rampant in recent weeks telling Americans that they can now travel to Cuba are overstated, or, at the very least, misleading.
But the changes set to take effect tomorrow will make it easier for those hoping to visit Cuba to do so. Americans who wish to travel to Cuba will have to meet one of 12 different criteria for authorized travel, as they have in the past. Those categories include family visits, official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions.
"It's a violation of U.S. law to disregard travel categories," a senior administration official said. "Penalties can be imposed for violations of any of the terms. This is something that we will continue to highlight as part of the process."
But—and this is a huge but—prospective travelers will no longer have to obtain a specialized license from the government, which seems to pave the way for a future in which leisure travel is more common, if not completely legal. As part of the updated regulations, those hoping to travel to Havana will only need a general license, which they can declare as individuals. In practice, this will effectively mean that people can claim they are traveling under one of the dozen approved categories, and then book a flight. Airlines and travel agents will no longer need specialized licenses to provide service to Cuba.
"A general license is not a physical piece of paper, like the specialized license is—it's basically a presumption that you fit one of those categories," said Julia Sweig, a longtime expert and author on Cuba. "It's like the government is giving citizens the benefit of the doubt from now on."
Senior administration officials admitted that a future in which Americans can purchase tickets to Cuba online is approaching. "I can foresee that over time it is possible under these changes that we could have regularly scheduled air travel and then you as a traveler could get online to buy a ticket," a senior administration official said. People will still need to fall within one of the twelve existing categories, but they might be able to do so simply by checking a box while booking a ticket.
In the past, Americans have circumvented travel bans by traveling through third party countries, like Canada and Mexico. In 2012, an estimated 98,000 people visited Cuba, a number which doesn't include the roughly 35,000 Cuban Americans who also made the trip that year. In the future, circumvented travel restrictions might not require such involved maneuvers—especially if those travel restrictions continue to soften, or even fade away entirely, as some experts predict.
"In my view, this is pretty much the end of the travel ban as much as they can make at the moment," said Sweig. "The next thing they're going to do is negotiate a civil aviation agreement so charters can carry more people. And once you have more Americans going to Cuba without the sort of bureaucratic hassle there has been in the past, that's going to create a real impetus for officially lifting the travel ban once and for all."
Friday will mark the third time the Obama administration has loosened U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba. In 2009, the president made it easier to Cuban Americans to visit family. In 2011, the administration made it easier for Americans to travel to the island country for educational, religious, and cultural purposes.
Yesterday was a holiday, Three Kings Day. It is actually today. But the government changes the dates for holiday's if they are close to the weekend to give everyone a long weekend. It was breezy and beautiful. Went to Plaza Espana last night and the place was packed.
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Same-sex marriage is banned in the Dominican Republic, but a man and his partner have exchanged vows in the first ceremony of its kind performed at the British embassy in the conservative Caribbean country.
The embassy tweeted on Tuesday that the Dominican government respected its right to perform the ceremony under the Vienna Convention and that the British government has recognized the marriage.
Embassy officials said they have advised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that additional ceremonies would be performed.
The couple was not identified, with the embassy saying only that it is a Dominican and a British man. Embassy officials tweeted a picture of the ceremony that showed only the hands of one man placing a wedding ring on the other.
The United Kingdom announced in June that same-sex couple could marry at British consulates in 25 countries, including the Dominican Republic. It is the only Caribbean country on that list.
The U.K. parliament approved same-sex marriages in July 2013, and the law went into effect March of this year.
The Dominican government stood up to the church. Maybe the times ARE changing.
Dominican Republic's President Danilo Medina changed the country's amended Penal Code to allow women access to safe abortion services in cases of rape, incest, fetal impairment and when the life of the pregnant woman is at risk. The country's constitution originally recognized human life at beginning at conception.
Medina's move comes just after the country's lawmakers introduced a bill to protect the woman's life if it was in risk from a pregnancy and were due to introduce a second bill supporting abortion in the case of rape, incest or fetal impairment.
President Medina has changed all that and called on Congress to make the necessary changes to the country's law to be in line with international human rights standards. It becomes the 36th country to decriminalize abortion in the last 20 years ending the country's absolute ban and its subsequent harsh penalties.
Advocates are calling the decision a momentous step toward expanding access to safe and legal abortion.
"Although the Dominican Republic has only allowed legal abortion in limited circumstances, it is still an important step forward for women's rights in the country," said Monica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "We must now work to hold the leadership accountable and ensure this critical change is fully implemented and women are able to access essential reproductive health care they need and deserve."
A draft bill to regulate abortion in the case of rape, incest or fetal impairments will be presented during the legislative session in February 2015.
The Catholic Church who supported Medina in his election bid in 2012 is outraged, and the decision led to the resignation of a key church official who had mediated between the church and president. Catholics and Evangelical Protestants have rallied in their hundreds in front of Congress in Santo Domino praying in large groups.
The ban on abortions in Dominican Republic has led to more than 90,000 unsafe abortions each year.
"No longer will women facing a pregnancy from rape or life-threatening complications be forced to live under a cloud of fear in the Dominican Republic," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
There are only five countries left in Latin America -- Chile, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua -- that ban abortion with no exceptions.
In March, lawmakers and civil society leaders from over 30 countries called for universal access to safe, legal abortions and comes in the context of 20 year review by the United Nations of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. The call is for the decriminalization of abortion in all countries.
In the Unites States, however, because of anti-abortion lawmakers were able to gain control as state lawmakers and as governors during the 2010 elections, during the period 2011-2013, legislatures in 30 states enacted 205 new laws restricting abortion -- more than the total number enacted in an entire previous decade, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
For those that celebrate, Merry Christmas. I'm going later to a Dominican friend's home to have dinner. In Latin America, the big dinner is tonight. And it seems like tomorrow everything is back to normal. I want to be in early tonight. This is when the drinking is non-stop and accidents are everywhere.
It's that time of year again. Many Dominicans are coming home for the holidays, and the criminals are on the lookout for them. Every year around this time, cars leaving all the airports in the country are targeted. Last year, there was a suggestion that it was an inside job. When you come through customs and fill out the forms, you are supposed to put your address. In some instances, when people arrived at their destination, there were tigueres they to rob them. Coincidence? Who knows. Just be careful if you're visiting this month. One of the tactics is to damage your car, to get you to stop, and then BAM! Robbery happens. Be careful.
The alleged murderers of Van Teasley have been captured. This is a photo of one of the alleged killers, Luiggy Miguel Gonzalez. He used to work at the brothel near the colonial zone, Juan Bin Bin. Trying to confrm the photo of the other suspect.
Another hotel, Casa Conde Boutique Hotel, is open in the colonial zone. It is really amazing how many hotels have been opening lately. Especially with many of the hotels that are here are struggling. This hotel is located on El Conde, right around the corner from the Hotel Roma. Best of luck to them.
There is new money in circulation. And they are replacing all old money now. The only problem is that most of the vending machines won't accept the new money. If you get money out of the ATMs, all the money you receive will be the new money. Remember, NEVER accept any money that is torn or defaced in any way. No one else will accept it. Many times they try to pawn the defaced money off on foreigners who don't know any better.
Yesterday, I started hearing rumblings about an American being killed in his apartment here. Today, it has been confirmed. Van Teasley, a lawyer from Washington, D.C., was found bound and gagged in his apartment in the Gazcue section of Santo Domingo. The cause of death was strangulation.
I did not know Van well. We corresponded a couple of times by email. The last time I saw him was while the NYC Bar was open. He told me that he had purchased an apartment in Gazcue. Just awful news to hear. May he rest in peace.
Add to this, another transsexual (Kimberly Sody) has also been killed. It seems like a monthly occurrence that a transsexual is being killed in the Dominican Republic. There will be a protest about all the killings on Monday. May both of these people rest in peace.
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — A 55-year-old American was found strangled in his apartment in the Dominican Republic's capital, authorities said Saturday.
Police identified the victim as Van Teasley and said his body was discovered early Friday. He had been bound and gagged.
Officials said police were alerted by a friend of the victim, Jeffrey Gordon Stroud, who was concerned that Teasley was not answering his door bell or responding to phone calls. The door to the victim's apartment was unlocked when police arrived to investigate, authorities said.
Another friend, Dana Fonville, said in a telephone interview from the United States that Teasley was a criminal defense attorney practicing in Washington, D.C.. He said Teasley had bought the apartment in Santo Domingo to use for brief vacations and visited 10 to 12 times a year.
"I'm very angry. He was a generous individual and was very well liked. He had a very alive personality and was very upbeat," Fonville said.
He said Teasley arrived in the Dominican Republic on Thursday and was scheduled to return to the U.S. on Tuesday.
A few days ago someone set one of the subway cars on fire. Over 35 people were hurt, some very seriously. A suspect has allegedly confessed. And there is talk of this being a terrorist attack. The suspect has been given a year of preventive custody, while it is all sorted out.
Former New Yorker (Harlem!) living in Santo Domingo since January 2004. The person I was when I arrived is a totally different person today. I still love living in the D.R. Even with all its obvious contradictions. This blog is where I write about things I find interesting with the gay community, news, gossip, culture, and of course, men. Strictly from my point-of-view.