There are several apps for your smart phones that allow you to live-stream Dominican television. I have tried many, but this particular one is my favorite. Below is a screenshot from a partial listing. There are dozens of channels from all over the country.
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — He was a familiar figure to the skinny shoeshine boys who work along the oceanfront promenade here. Wearing black track pants and a baseball cap pulled low over his balding head, they say, he would stroll along in the late afternoon and bring one of them down to the rocky shoreline or to a deserted monument for a local Catholic hero.
The boys say he gave them money to perform sexual acts. They called him “the Italian” because he spoke Spanish with an Italian accent.
It was only after he was spirited out of the country, the boys say, his picture splashed all over the local news media, that they learned his real identity: Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
“He definitely seduced me with money,” said Francis Aquino Aneury, who says he was 14 when the man he met shining shoes began offering him increasingly larger sums for sexual acts. “I felt very bad. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I needed the money.”
The case is the first time that a top Vatican ambassador, or nuncio — who serves as a personal envoy of the pope — has been accused of sexual abuse of minors. It has sent shock waves through the Vatican and two predominantly Catholic countries that have only begun to grapple with clergy sexual abuse: the Dominican Republic and Poland, where Mr. Wesolowski was ordained by the Polish prelate who later became Pope John Paul II.
It has also created a test for Pope Francis, who has called child sexual abuse “such an ugly crime” and pledged to move the Roman Catholic Church into an era of “zero tolerance.” For priests and bishops who have violated children, he told reporters in May, “There are no privileges.”
Mr. Wesolowski has already faced the harshest penalty possible under the church’s canon law, short of excommunication: on June 27, he was defrocked by the Vatican, reducing him to the status of a layman. The Vatican, which as a city-state has its own judicial system, has also said it intends to try Mr. Wesolowski on criminal charges — the first time the Vatican has held a criminal trial for sexual abuse.
But far from settling the matter, the Vatican has stirred an outcry because it helped Mr. Wesolowski avoid criminal prosecution and a possible jail sentence in the Dominican Republic. Acting against its own guidelines for handling abuse cases, the church failed to inform the local authorities of the evidence against him, secretly recalled him to Rome last year before he could be investigated, and then invoked diplomatic immunity for Mr. Wesolowski so that he could not face trial in the Dominican Republic.
The Vatican’s handling of the case shows both the changes the church has made in dealing with sexual abuse, and what many critics call its failures. When it comes to removing pedophiles from the priesthood, the Vatican is moving more assertively and swiftly than before. But as Mr. Wesolowski’s case suggests, the church continues to be reluctant to report people suspected of abuse to the local authorities and allow them to face justice in secular courts.
The Vatican says that because Mr. Wesolowski was a member of its diplomatic corps and a citizen of the Holy See, the case would be handled in Rome. But even many faithful Catholics in this nation, home to the oldest Catholic cathedral in the Americas, say they are unsettled that a Vatican official could have been using children for sex, yet was not arrested and tried in their own country.
A Dominican bishop, Victor Masalles, visiting Rome in late June, said in a Twitter message that he was surprised to see Mr. Wesolowski “strolling the Via della Scrofa,” in the city’s picturesque ancient center. He added, “The silence of the Church has hurt the people of God.”
It was at the heel of this colossus, on the deserted upper plaza in the shadow of the friar’s robes, Mr. Aquino said, that he was often molested by the man he knew as “the Italian.” The man always chose a bench that would allow him to see the rare visitor coming up the staircase, and would watch the boy masturbate, would touch him or would touch himself, said Mr. Aquino, now 17. Other times, they went to the rocky beach below the statue.
Mr. Aquino, whose family is originally from Haiti, left school in the eighth grade, earning $1.50 on a typical weekday by shining shoes. But he said that the man gave him more than $10 the first time they met, in 2010, to shine his shoes and to swim naked in the ocean while Mr. Wesolowski watched.
The man returned often over the next six weeks, Mr. Aquino said. But gradually the man wanted more, giving him from about $25 to as much as $135, as well as sneakers and a watch, for sexual acts. They met on and off over three years, Mr. Aquino said, but the man revealed little more than his first name, which he gave as “Josie.”
There is a mix of shame and anger among the shoeshine boys who say they knew the man. Darwin Quervedo, who is 14, said haltingly, with eyes downcast, that when he was 11, the man gave him more than $25 to watch him masturbate down by the beach. He said he felt scared, and never did it again.
When he learned much later of the man’s identity, Darwin said he thought to himself, “What kind of a man who is a priest does things like this?”
The promenade is a popular stretch for tourists and joggers. But it is also frequented by those seeking children and young men for sex. With all this activity, Mr. Wesolowski, in his track suit and running shoes, did not at first attract inordinate attention. He also chose his victims carefully, the shoe shiners said.
“He wasn’t interested in me,” said Robin Quello Cintrón, 23. “He said I was too old, that he liked the younger ones.”
“I warned the younger kids, ‘Don’t go with him,’ ” said Mr. Cintrón, adding, “But the money tempted them.”
Curbing child sexual exploitation is a pressing issue in the Dominican Republic and many countries, and the Catholic Church is among the many religious institutions that have taken up the cause.
In March, Pope Francis signed onto a campaign with other global religious leaders to fight all forms of human slavery, including child prostitution. This month, he sent a message for the opening of a refuge in Argentina for young victims of sexual exploitation.
Still, two United Nations panels in Geneva examining the church’s record on child sexual abuse questioned the Vatican this year about its handling of the Wesolowski case.
Mr. Wesolowski, 66, was ordained at 23 in Krakow by Archbishop Karol Józef Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II. In 1999, he was appointed papal nuncio to Bolivia, and in 2002, he was reassigned to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
In 2008, he was sent to the Dominican Republic. Mr. Wesolowski served as a ceremonial dean of the international diplomatic corps here, convening an annual party in honor of the country’s president. The posting came with a stately residence and access to a beach house.
On the waterfront, Mr. Wesolowski attempted to disguise his rank, the boys say. He drove a small gray-green Suzuki sport utility vehicle with rosary beads hanging from the rearview mirror, they recalled, and parked it near the monument in the colonial zone, where several streets are named for archbishops.
One day last year, Nuria Piera, a prominent television journalist, received a tip that the papal nuncio drank beer many afternoons at a waterfront restaurant, then went off with young boys.
Ms. Piera sent a video crew to surreptitiously film the nuncio, she said in an interview at CDN, where she is general director. The crew shot some video of Mr. Wesolowski drinking alone and walking the promenade, Ms. Piera said, but he noticed their presence (though not the camera), walked over, smacked his hand against their car and asked why they were following him.
After that, Ms. Piera said, he disappeared from the waterfront. Her tipster never saw him there again.
“I suspected that there may have been a leak from our own office,” Ms. Piera said.
Mr. Wesolowski began sending a young Dominican church deacon to procure children for him, law enforcement authorities in the Dominican Republic say.
The deacon, Francisco Javier Occi Reyes, was arrested by the police on June 24, 2013, accused of solicitation of minors and taken to jail. But no one came to bail him out, and the deacon sent an anguished letter dated July 2 to Mr. Wesolowski, to be delivered to him by hand at his office.
“We have offended God” and the church, the letter said, by sexually abusing children and adolescents “for crumbs of money.” The deacon wrote that he had agreed to find child victims for the nuncio so that “your sexual appetite can be satiated,” but that he was now asking God for forgiveness.
“Hopefully you will consider asking for God to help you to walk away from this evil disease of continuing to sexually abuse innocent children,” the letter said, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times from a Dominican Justice Ministry official.
The deacon sent copies of the letter to Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus López Rodriguez, the head of the church in the Dominican Republic, and to a Dominican bishop, Gregorio Nicanor Peña Rodríguez. The cardinal then carried the evidence to the Vatican, where he met directly with Pope Francis, according to interviews with the Dominican authorities. On Aug. 21 last year, Mr. Wesolowski was secretly recalled to Rome.
Six days later, the cardinal called the papal nuncio “a great friend and promoter of peace.”
Neither the cardinal, nor other church officials, reported the allegations to the local authorities, Dominican officials say. Vatican guidelines say that criminal sexual abuse accusations should be reported in countries where reporting is required.
Soon after, church officials here told local news media that Mr. Wesolowski had been recalled because of the allegations against him, prompting Cardinal Rodriguez to confirm that he had gone to the Vatican to address the matter. He and other church officials denied requests for an interview.
‘The Most Terrible Case’
The district attorney, Ms. Reynoso, said her investigators had identified four children aged 12 to 17 with whom the nuncio had sexual contact, but that there were likely others.
The 17-year-old had epilepsy, and the nuncio gave him medicine for his condition in exchange for sexual acts, starting from when the boy was 13, the district attorney said. She said she had “no doubt” about the credibility of the youths’ testimony, because it was corroborated by other evidence.
“This is the most terrible case that I have ever seen,” said Ms. Reynoso. “He was abusing kids who were living in extreme poverty, in exchange for pills for a boy’s illness. It’s very perverse.”
The Vatican sent someone to the Dominican Republic last October to look into the case, but they made no contact with the district attorney or anyone in her office, Ms. Reynoso said. She forwarded her report to the country’s attorney general, who forwarded it to the Vatican.
Ms. Reynoso said the case should have been prosecuted in the Dominican Republic. “These children who were abused, and their families, and the Dominican society, have a legitimate right to see Jozef Wesolowski judged by a jury — not as a diplomat, but for what he really is,” she said. “A child abuser.”
Mr. Brito, the attorney general, said he trusted that the Vatican would apply the “appropriate discipline.” He said he did not seek to have Mr. Wesolowski extradited because he has diplomatic immunity, and “the law would not allow it.”
According to experts in international law, the Vatican could have waived diplomatic immunity. In Santo Domingo, there have been small protests and petitions signed by more than a thousand people calling on the Vatican to extradite Mr. Wesolowski to the Dominican Republic. Advocates have accused the government of acquiescing to the church. “We think there has been a lot of impunity in this case, and no transparency,” said Sergia Galván, executive director of the Women and Health Collective, which represents abuse victims. “If he’s no longer a diplomat, if he was stripped of that title, he no longer has immunity.”
The case has reverberated in Poland, where prosecutors have sought to extradite Mr. Wesolowski, who holds both Vatican and Polish citizenship. Poland has indicted another Polish priest, the Rev. Wojciech Gil, who fled the Dominican Republic last year amid allegations that he abused altar boys in his rural parish. Prosecutors in the Dominican Republic say that Father Gil and Mr. Wesolowski spent time with young boys at the nuncio’s beach house.
There are indications from Rome that the pope himself is concerned about the Wesolowski case. A Dominican bishop, Fausto Ramón Mejía, said in an interview that when he was part of a delegation visiting the Vatican late last year, Pope Francis’ smile vanished on hearing what country he was from.
“He became very serious,” said Bishop Mejía. “He stopped and he said to me, very sincerely, ‘I feel as though my heart was crossed by a dagger from what took place in the Dominican Republic.’ ”
A little bohemian oasis located on a side-street in the colonial that makes shoes. But just as known for the best Margarita's I've had in a long time. This is the kind of place where creative people (namely artists) get together. The kind of place we need more of in the zone. La Alpargatería Salomé Ureña #59 Zona Colonial https://www.facebook.com/lalpargateria
These shots are from Paul Culver. Taken in Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic. Rio San Juan is a sleepy little town on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Known for beautiful secluded beaches, along with beautiful homes to rent on the ocean. And, if you should find yourself in Rio San Juan. A nice place to stay is a house that has been turned into a bed & breakfast: Villa Le Cap.
A new business has opened in the colonial zone. Nothing unusual about that. What is unusual is that he has a blog where he documents the journey. And boy, what a journey it was. To see what it looks like now, and to compare it to the before photos. All I can say is, wow. One of the best parts of the blog are the sections where he talks about the approvals process with the local goverment agency that handles any changes you want to make to buildings in the colonial zone. It took eight months to get approval for his plans, on something that should've taken two weeks, at the most. And it ONLY took eight months because of his persistence. Go to the website to get more information about the new business: http://www.islandlifebackpackershostel.com. And share the journey on his blog: http://anewadventuredr.blogspot.com.
Tropical Strom Bertha is making its way through the Mona Passage (between D.R. & P.R.). The sun is still shining, but the satellite doesn't lie. A storm is a comin'. I just hope the lights don't go out. The lights in the colonial zone used to be great, and not go out often. And now, a few days ago, the lights went out for 36 hours. The Hotel Frances didn't have lights for 8 hours yesterday. And everyone is complaining. In any case, I have a Golden Girls marathon to keep me busy.
A potential storm is brewing off the coast of Africa. It has been a quiet hurricane season, thus far. But this is usually the time when things pick up a bit. Usually, I am not interested in storms coming close. But honestly, we need one desperately. There is a severe drought in the country. And, there are some worrying wildfires in the mountains because of the dry conditions. A nice storm with not too much wind would solve those problems. We'll know in a couple of days.
The summer doldrums are here. And I have been here, there, and everywhere. If you are in NYC on Sunday, Ernest Montgomery, is having a book-signing for his new masterpiece, Dominicanos by Ernest Montgomery.
Great spread in today's Hoy newspaper. All about Dominicanos by Ernest Montgomery. It is selling very well. Have you gotten your copy? I can get it signed with a personal message for you! A big shoutout to the writer, C. Reyes (such a sweet guy)!!!
rSomeone sent me this post from Facebook. It is from a Dominican immigrant talking about her experience living in the U.S.A., as opposed to the D.R. And of course, you can only imagine the negative "go back to your country" comments. She was just giving her opinion. What got me thinking about this, is that I know many good people here who would gladly trade places with her.
It seems I'm late to this news. But I was passing by the Hard Rock Cafe the other day, and noticed it looked different. Then I read the notices on the door. It has closed and is moving (or has moved) to the Blue Mall. I think this is another nail in the coffin to the colonial zone.
The Evangelicals are protesting in front of congress today. Too much gayness for their nerves. Specifically, they don't think gay pride celebrations should be allowed. And don't get them started on the U.S. Ambassador.
I was passing the Ocean Breeze Hotel, and saw that it was freshly painted. And they were installing lights outside the building. Upon further digging, I found out that the old owners sold the place. And the new owners are now fixing up all the rooms. Will find out more information, but can't find any website information online. I spoke with someone who told me the prices are $35/$40 - $55 per night. I will stop by and see what more I can find out. There are two other hotels that are open and opening. The J.W. Marriott & the Embassy Suites by Hilton Santo Domingo.
Last week, the finals of the Mr. Dominican Republic Pageant was held. Below is the representative from San Cristobal. He should have been the winner, in my opinion. Click here to see more photos from the competition.
A popular service here called Gustazo (sort of like the Dominican version of Groupon) sends around an email everyday with different specials on restaurants, hotels, perfumes, spas, among many other sales. This one sent today is for Mamajuana's Cafe in the colonial zone. Lunch or dinner for two for RD$995 pesos (including taxes!). That's a great bargain.
Karen Smith of Milford was on vacation with her family in the Dominican Republic.
On their way home April 12, she printed out her first-class boarding pass and had it scanned by both security and US Airways agents at the Punta Cana boarding gate.
Then something went wrong. She was pulled out of the line just as she and her family were about to get on the plane. They took her boarding pass. They said they needed to give her a “flight coupon” back at the counter. They made her stand at the counter so long that the flight took off with her husband and three children aboard and all their luggage. She had no possessions except her purse. They did not rebook her on another airline and said they had nothing available on US Airways except a flight that would get her home in two days. The counter closed. As night fell, they left her in the lobby. She had to go on her own to a hotel, then pay nearly $1,400 the next day to get home on Delta Air Lines.
At no time was she held by security, immigration or customs. She was not on a no-fly list. Her passport was never taken. She was not unruly. And “her” seat on the plane was left empty.
What in the world could have happened?
Something that supposedly in this day and age absolutely cannot.
Her US Airways return ticket was evaporated by Delta, but the error was invisible to the US Airways reservations systems.
If it could happen to her, it could happen to anyone.
Zombie airline ticket
For weeks afterward, Smith contacted US Airways customer service trying to get answers and get her money back for costs and trauma, even filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation. I talked to US Airways on her behalf three times. After several rounds of disbelief, denials, delays and internal investigations, the story became clear. Sort of.
It turns out that Smith had booked the family’s $10,000 trip on Expedia, with the family flying on Delta to Punta Cana and flying US Airways back to Detroit. No problem with that.
However, the day the family left Detroit, Delta had to make an adjustment to Smith’s ticket at the gate, but — and this is the part that is not supposed to be possible — somehowvoided out the entire e-ticket including the US Airways return portion — even though the change did not show up in the US Airways reservations system and the passenger had no way of knowing about the problem.
Thus, upon her return from Punta Cana, Smith was able to print out her US Airways first class boarding pass, get it scanned, and nearly board the plane when US Airways agents, noticing for the first time the lack of a valid underlying ticket, pulled her from the line.
Then they left an American citizen standing all alone in the closing terminal, her family flown away, her cell phone dying and no way to get home.
Prying a refund
There are some lessons from this story. Always carry your e-ticket number (printed on your reservation). If your ticket involves multiple airlines, be wary of any changes made to it by the first carrier. Get travel insurance, which can reimburse you for your costs. And if you are an American citizen in an emergency in a foreign country, contact the U.S. Embassy’s citizen services division, which was established to help. This, Smith did not do.
But she did nothing wrong. Neither did Expedia. There is nothing unusual about booking a ticket that includes legs on two different airlines.
US Airways has acknowledged poor customer service by their Punta Cana agents, but it has denied causing the canceled ticket and thus says it owes her nothing, a US Airways spokesman told me.
Delta, after a query from the U.S. Department of Transportation, on May 16 finally refunded the $1,385.30 Smith had to pay for a new airline ticket home. Russell Cason, Delta’s manager of corporate communications, tells me Delta also will pay her $160 hotel cost.
“As soon as we were made aware of the problem, we researched the situation, issued her an apology and fully refunded her return ticket,” he said. “We are working with Ms. Smith to process a refund for her additional hotel costs in Punta Cana.”
Nobody has given Smith anything for scaring the heck out of her and her family, and abandoning her in a foreign country.
I have never heard of an intra-airline error like this happening in the computer age. Neither, obviously, had the airlines. Neither had the government. Hopefully, it will never happen again. But it could.
“It was a miserable experience for our family,” Smith says, “and I think Delta and US Airways got off easy.”
I wrote several weeks ago about this new mosquito-borne illness that was just making its way into the Caribbean. Well, now it is an epidemic. I know several people here who have come down with this illness and it is not a joke. The Center for Disease Control has more information about it by clicking here. And it is headed to the U.S.
State health officials across the USA report a surge of suspected cases of a painful mosquito-borne illness that can leave those infected with severe joint pain that can make walking or even shaking hands unbearable.
All but one American suspected of contracting the disease known as chikungunya had recently traveled to the Caribbean. The first case of the disease being transmitted on U.S. soil was confirmed in Puerto Rico late last month.
Infectious disease experts say conditions are ripe for the illness to explode in a large swath of the USA where two mosquito species known to spread the disease are in abundance.
"It's not a matter of if but when," said James Crowe, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
The disease was discovered in Africa more than 60 years ago and was detected in the Caribbean late last year. About 135,000 people have been suspected or confirmed infected in the Western Hemisphere — mostly in the Caribbean — since last year, according to the Pan American Health Organization.
The symptoms of chikungunya — which is derived from the Kimakonde language and roughly translates as "to become contorted" — include fever, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The disease shares some clinical symptoms with dengue and is often misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common.
The disease, which has no known cure, is less lethal than mosquito-borne illness West Nile virus. The joint pain can be excruciating, and debilitating symptoms usually last days and sometimes weeks.
In recent weeks, state health officials have reported that American travelers to the Caribbean from Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia have been stricken with symptoms consistent with chikungunya. Wednesday, officials in the U.S. Virgin Islands reported a locally transmitted case of the disease.
"Thankfully, deaths from the disease are rare, but the pain can be severe and debilitating," said Joseph Acierno, chief medical officer at Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services, which this week confirmed the first case of a Nebraskan contracting the disease.
The infected woman had traveled to Haiti, where she may have contracted it.
The warm and wet summer season on its way in the continental USA provides optimal conditions for the disease to spread through the country. Mosquitoes transmit the disease by biting an infected traveler, then biting another person. The disease cannot be spread person-to-person.
Two species of mosquitoes, aedes albopictus and aedes aegypti, carry the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the albopictus, commonly known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is "more likely to play a larger role in transmission in the United States due to its wide distribution."
That species can be found from Florida to the mid-Atlantic region and in large swaths of the Midwest. The aegypti, also known as the yellow fever mosquito, is mostly found in the Southeast.
CDC studies showed an average of 28 people per year tested positive for chikungunya in the USA from 2006-2013. All were travelers visiting or returning to the USA from affected areas.
In 2014, the number of suspected infected people has exceeded the U.S. yearly average. Florida and Tennessee have counted a total of 37 suspected cases in recent weeks.
Of the 14 suspected cases involving Tennesseans, 13 had returned from mission trips from Haiti, said Abelardo Moncayo of the Tennessee Department of Health.
Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs at the National Pest Management Association, said federal and state health officials began anticipating that the disease could become an issue in the USA when the first cases were identified in the Caribbean late last year.
She said there is concern among health officials that chikungunya could be spread farther globally as tens of thousands of soccer fans and athletes visit Brazil for the World Cup. One of the species of mosquitoes is common there.
Americans should watch for symptoms to help prevent the disease from spreading, she said.
"It's critical that people who are traveling to some of these countries where it is endemic are extra cautious and sensitive if they return home and are not well," Henriksen said. "They should immediately consult with a medical professional."
The United States Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Wally Brewster, just released a video talking about gay pride month. And it is generating a lot of controversy. It seems many people don't have a problem with him being gay. They just don't want him to talk about it, or want to see his husband. Change is difficult.
Last night, was the annual Mr. Universe Model pageant. My favorite, Mr. Universe Model Panama (below), didn't make the top 10. So, I'm over it. If you want to see the photos from last night's show, click here .
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.