OPINION

Opinion: Obama’s patronage appointment to the Dominican Republic

U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, James "Wally" Brewster.

U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, James "Wally" Brewster.  (AP2013)

President Barack Obama appointed businessman James “Wally” Brewster, Jr. as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 2013. Glancing over Mr. Brewster’s credentials, one can easily ascertain that the appointment was not made on meritocratic grounds. On the contrary, Mr. Brewster’s appointment is conspicuously of a clientelistic nature. Found wanting in diplomatic experience, mastery of the Spanish language and knowledge of the inner-workings of Dominican society, Mr. Brewster was a poor choice to represent the American people as a diplomat in said Caribbean nation.

His lack of diplomatic and country-specific credentials notwithstanding, President Obama appointed James Brewster because of his important fund-raising efforts on behalf of the Democratic Party during the 2012 presidential campaign. Whereas Mr. Brewster shows a track record of success in the business arena, his diplomatic feats are nowhere to be found. Moreover, he does not seem to exercise his business acumen on behalf of strengthening U.S.-Dominican relations. Instead he uses the power of his office to subvert Dominican Republic’s sovereignty in decision-making.

Considering that a man cannot ride another's back unless it is bent, the onus is also on the Dominican government and its leaders to clearly demarcate the boundaries within which foreign officials must abide while on Dominican soil.

- Jonathan D'Oleo

More specifically, Brewster came under fire after his appointment for promoting gay issues in the predominantly conservative country he was commissioned to serve.

Recently Mr. Brewster has been fervently trying to sway the Dominican tourism authorities to market the country's attractions to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual individuals. The Ministry of Tourism in that country has historically targeted traditional families not as a way of discriminating against any other group, but as a matter of choice in the disbursement of marketing funds.

In face of the Ministry of Tourism’s refusal to adopt his initiative to specifically promote the country to LGBT individuals, Mr. Brewster accused the country of outright discrimination and threatened to remove U.S. support to Dominican tourism if he does not have his way.

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Needless to say, such position and demeanor is utterly unbecoming of a U.S. Ambassador. Mr. Brewster is directly conspiring against the Dominican Republic’s wellbeing by threatening to undermine one of the most important sectors of its emerging economy. Should Mr. Brewster’s threat become material it would constitute a veritable economic sanction on a country that is a friend of the United States.

Is that the kind of action one would expect from a diplomat representing the greatest and most powerful democracy in the world? Certainly not! Acting against best practices in the exercise of diplomacy, however, is not a matter of concern for Mr. Brewster as oftentimes it looks like he is a diplomat only in the nominal sense. Alongside his partner, Bob Satawake, the role he is really playing in Dominican politics is that of a social activist. Proceeding in that capacity he adulterates the essence of his mission and grossly oversteps his authority.

But that comes as no surprise as that is the general norm in patronage appointments to diplomatic posts. The appointee sees his office as a quid pro quo or gift from the patron as a token for political loyalty. Upon taking office, the appointee uses his position to advance his personal agenda even at the expense of the host country. Regrettably so, such seems to be the case with Mr. Brewster and the Dominican Republic.

I wonder if the U.S. Department of State would knowingly endorse Mr. Brewster's position. Doing so would be nothing less than an infringement upon the most fundamental rights of a free and democratic country such as the Dominican Republic. Considering that a man cannot ride another's back unless it is bent, the onus is also on the Dominican government and its leaders to clearly demarcate the boundaries within which foreign officials must abide while on Dominican soil.

Jonathan D'Oleo is a management consultant, author, speaker and public policy expert. Twitter @JonathanJDOleo.

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