A couple of days ago I was told about a raid on a bar called Frito Verde.
Frito Verde is a bar over in a nice section of Santo Domingo. It was raided last week and the patrons arrested. It is not a Gay bar, per se, but many Gay Dominicans frequent the place. The bar is an open-air bar located on a street where there are lots of bars and people walking around. There was an investigation and the bar was raided for "immoral" behavior of some of the patrons. There crime was that there were kissing and caressing each other. Though that is not a crime in this country.
Here is the thing, the DR is still at heart a conservative country where the Catholic Church wields a lot of power. The bar is located in an area where the well-to-do congregate. As with many things in the DR, people know the bar exists, but they would prefer that things like that are kept quiet AND indoors. Mind you, this is NOT a bar where you will find buggarons, but a bar where Gay Dominicans congregate to let off a little steam.
I asked Francisco J. Lazala, executive director and founder of GALDE (Gay & Lesbian Dominican Empowerment Organization) in NYC what he thought, and he sent me this message:
"The Dominican government continues to discriminate against our brothers and sisters simply because our fellow patriots "are dedicated to practicing immoral acts, like kissing and caressing between themselves." Since when is it illegal to kiss or caress someone? It shouldn't matter if it happens between same-sex or heterosexual couples. I am certain that those boys wouldn't have been arrested if they were heterosexuals.
Leonel Fernandez, DR's President wrote and approved a law that is supposed to protect sexual minorities, but the law is not being applied appropriately.
How is it that after they get humiliated by getting arrested, they're names have to come out in the newspapers? I ask myself what are the local NGO's (Non-profit Organizations), religious and political leaders doing to help/protect our young LGBTs in the Dominican Republic?
In all honesty, when I read these articles I get extremely upset and disgusted because I feel impotent because I can't do anything from NYC. Of course GALDE can write a letter of support like we have done in the past, but that's not sufficient.
I am sending out an email to request help and to ask everyone to raise conscious among the general community and demand that we continue the fight against homophobia, discrimination and bigotry in the Dominican Republic and the world.
As more details emerge I will revisit this topic.